- 1 What can I use a portable car heater for?
- 2 Do portable car heaters really work?
- 3 What kinds of portable heaters for cars are there?
- 4 What is the best portable heater for my car?
- 5 What is the Best Propane Heater for my Car in 2020?
- 6 What is the Best Portable Electric Heater for my Car in 2020?
- 7 What is the Best Portable Direct Wired Heater for my Car in 2020?
- 8 What is the Best Portable Battery Powered Heater for my Car?
- 9 What is the Best Portable Cigarette Lighter Heater for my Car?
- 10 What is the best portable windshield heater for cars in 2020?
- 11 What is the Best Portable Seat Warmer for my Car?
- 12 What is the Best Portable Electric Blanket for my Car?
- 13 What is the best 12 volt heated lunchbox for cars in 2020?
- 14 Should I Buy a Portable Heater for my Car?
Here at Know the Flow we have recently turned our attention to portable car heaters, and frankly we’ve become a little concerned about so many of the products out there that either don’t really work at all or are unsafe (or both) – and concerned too about so many of the buyers guides which unconcernedly recommend those products.
That is why we have decided to put together our own buyer’s guide for the best portable heaters to use in a car. We will focus on how well these heaters work, and how safe they are to use, and we’ll only recommend products which satisfy these two extremely important criteria.
What can I use a portable car heater for?
There are a number of reasons why you might want to get a portable heater to use inside your car, including:
- As an emergency heater
- To keep you, or your passengers, warmer while driving
- To replace a broken or inadequate factory heater
- To help keep your windows clear and defrosted
- To keep your food warm
Portable car heaters do some of these tasks quite well, and others not so well, and so we would like to first talk a little about each of these applications and what you can expect.
Do portable car heaters really work?
The question of whether portable car heaters are any good depends on what you want to use them for.
The first thing that we should make clear is that any heater that plugs into your cigarette lighter socket is not going to do much actual heating.
Amazon pages and buyer’s guides all over the web are filled with such plug in products which claim to heat the cab of your car, defrost your windows and keep you and your loved ones safe, but it just takes a few minutes of reading customer reviews to realize that none of them will do any of these things.
It is also easy to understand from a more technical angle. The kind of electrical current required to heat even a smaller space, like the interior of a car, is so great that you would be blowing fuses in the lighter’s circuitry all the time. So cigarette lighter heaters, to prevent this, just don’t get that warm, and are not really effective.
What kinds of portable heaters for cars are there?
There are, though, a few other options. And here we should make another point as clear as possible. If you want to keep a heater in your car for possible emergencies, you should make absolutely certain that it will work when you need it to. Do not save money now and regret it later – especially for something as important as an emergency heater.
We have found that in this case there are only a few basic types of heaters that you can really depend upon in an emergency, and that in any situation will always work well for you:
- Propane Heaters – not to be run while driving, while you are sleeping in the car, or with the car completely sealed, these are perfectly safe if you crack the windows and give them some space.
- Electric Heater with Emergency Battery – a two-part solution, this is often the very best and most reliable way to go.
- Direct Wired Heaters – these connect directly to your car’s electrical system, and because they will drain the battery they are best used when the engine is running.
There are a very few cigarette lighter heaters which work well, and we will include those below as well, and one rechargeable electric heater – though this one might not be what you expect!
What is the best portable heater for my car?
In this buyer’s guide – Top 7 Portable Heaters for your Car (2020 Edition) – we will pick the very best unit in six categories:
- What is the Best Portable Propane Heater for my Car?
- What is the Best Portable Electric Heater for my Car?
- What is the Best Portable Direct Wired Heater for my Car?
- What is the Best Portable Battery Powered Heater for my Car?
- What is the Best Portable Cigarette lighter Heater for my Car (4 Types)?
What is the Best Propane Heater for my Car in 2020?
Mr. Heater Little Buddy F215100 MH4B Propane Heater
Although you may be tempted to get a big heater for emergency situations, most will simply produce too much heat for a car, and are too large as well – even to the point of being unsafe.
The Mr Heater Little Buddy is a smaller heater, which is safe and fuel efficient and puts out plenty of heat – really the perfect choice as an emergency heater for you car.
With the Little Buddy you’ll enjoy a more modest 3,800 BTU output, which is still plenty of heat for any car, and for even extreme conditions, and it will operate at maximum output for over five and a half hours.
This heater is not recommended to use in a moving vehicle, and when you use it in an emergency situation you must make sure that the windows are slightly open to offer adequate ventilation, that the Little Buddy has enough space around it, that it is not next to any flammable materials, and that you do not fall asleep while it is running.
That said, the Mr Heater Little Buddy is one of the safest propane heaters on the market, with a sensor to monitor oxygen levels and a tip-over switch, either of which will turn the heater off immediately.
The ideal small emergency heater, well designed, well made and perfectly safe if used properly, the Mr Heater Little Buddy can save your life if you ever get stranded in extreme cold conditions, and is our choice for best propane heater for a car in 2020.
Please note: If you are in North America, this Little Buddy heater is not approved for sale or use in Canada or in Massachusetts. Mr. Heater makes a special version of this heater just for those two places, the Little Buddy Canada / Massachusetts Approved Propane Heater.
What is the Best Portable Electric Heater for my Car in 2020?
NinjaBatt Portable Power Station
Andily Portable Ceramic Space Heater
Although in theory an emergency heater with a rechargeable battery seems like a great idea, in truth there aren’t any that are really effective or dependable enough, or that last long enough on a charge, to be of actual use in an emergency.
The best way to make sure that you are covered in an emergency, or any time you want or need a heater in your car, is to purchase a great electric heater and also a quality portable emergency battery system. This way, not only do you have the assurance of warmth in extreme cold situations, you can also make sure you have power for emergency lights, for your cell phone or for whatever else you might need.
In fact, that the most important item any emergency kit can have may well be a good rechargeable power station, and the best affordable unit we have found is the NinjBatt – a silly name but a serious product.
The NinjBatt has pure sine AC power, for any normal electrical product, and can power a heater for hours while still charging and running other devices. It also has 4 USB ports, 12 volt and 24 volt outlets and a built in emergency LED light. And it can be recharged at home, from your car’s cigarette lighter or with an optional solar panel – we really like the Rockpals 100 Watt Foldable Solar Panel.
And the perfect heater to include in this emergency kit is the Andily Portable Ceramic Space Heater, a small, safe and extremely effective portable ceramic heater with two heat settings – 750 and 1500 watts.
At only 7.5 inches tall, and weighing only 3 pounds, the Andily ceramic space heater puts out plenty of heat for a car’s interior, even at the low setting, and has excellent safety features as well – including a tip over switch, an overheating switch and materials which will not burn or melt and remain cool even when the heater is running. And, since it is a ceramic heater, it won’t consume oxygen from your car’s interior.
The Andily portable ceramic heater is designed for home or office use, and is not specifically intended for use in a car, so you must be extremely careful and only use it in emergency situations. Keep the heating element away from anything flammable, and do not fall asleep when it is running.
If used properly, though, it is the best ceramic heater for cars we have found and, in combination with the excellent NinjBatt Portable Power Station, is our choice for best portable electric heater for cars in 2020, and best emergency heater overall.
What is the Best Portable Direct Wired Heater for my Car in 2020?
American Cooling Solutions 20,000 BTU 12V Low Profile Universal Auxiliary Cab Heater
We may be cheating here a little bit. I mean, a heater that is hard wired and permanently installed in your car maybe shouldn’t be referred to as “portable.”
But, if you’ll allow us, we simply couldn’t get behind the idea of using any portable heater as a replacement for a broken factory heater. There are indeed manufacturers and buyer’s guides out there which recommend this or that portable heater if your car’s built in heater is not working, but they won’t actually heat up your car, and driving in winter conditions without adequate heating can be unheatlhful and dangerous.
Not so with the American Cooling Systems 20,000 BTU heater, which has plenty of heat output for any sized car’s interior, and its low profile and under-seat mounting allow it to do its job discretely and without getting in the way.
Also a great 12v truck heater, and equally useful in an SUV, van or any other passenger vehicle, the American Cooling Systems 12 volt auxiliary heater works like your car’s factory installed heater – taking heat from the engine’s radiator via liquid coolant, then heating the air with it and distributing that hot air throughout the car’s interior.
As such, it is a great option if your car’s heater is broken, or is just not working as well as it used to. If you have researched just how expensive it can be to have a car’s heater repaired or replaced, you know that you could easily purchase this remarkably effective heater and have a professional mechanic install it for you, and it still would be considerably less expensive than the first option.
And, with a unit as great as this ACS auxiliary 12 volt heater, it might actually work better! It is also a really good choice to supplement a working car heater, if the car’s interior is still too cold – especially in very cold climates or extreme conditions.
Keep in mind that this 12 volt heater is not a DIY project – it needs to be connected to the battery, not the cigarette lighter socket, needs copper tubing to run from the radiator, and must be securely installed to your car’s interior.
The American Cooling Solutions 20,000 BTU 12V Low Profile Universal Auxiliary Cab Heater is a truly superior product. Industrial quality materials and construction, simple and reliable design and an exceptionally high level of effectiveness – whether you are replacing or just supplementing your car, truck, van or SUV’s factory heater, this powerful unit is the perfect choice, and is our choice for best portable direct wired heater for cars in 2020.
To be sure, the ACS 20,000 BTU heater puts out a lot of heat, and is good for even larger personal vehicles, but if you are looking for something a bit smaller, with an even lower profile and not quite as much heat, you may want to consider their excellent 13,000 BTU Universal Auxiliary Cab Heater – a perfect choice for compact cars.
What is the Best Portable Battery Powered Heater for my Car?
Fourheart Rechargeable Hand Warmers
The Fourheart Rechargable Heater is a bit of a different option.
I know that, even with all of the safety features offered with the other heaters on our list of best portable heaters for your car in 2020/2021, some people still don’t feel completely comfortable using one in the small interior space of their car.
And so, if you ever run out of gas or are stuck in the snow or ice, and you need to stay warm for a few hours, something as tiny and simple as the Fourheart Hand Warmer can make a big difference.
A tiny, rechargeable heater that can be put in your pockets, your boots or your jacket, and will run for hours on a single charge, the Fourheart will not be enough to keep you alive in the most extreme conditions, but it can make waiting for a tow truck or heroic family member a lot more pleasant.
With its large 5,200 mAh rechargeable battery, the Fourheart rechargeable heater can also be used in an emergency situation as a power bank for a depleted phone.
The Fourheart heater is designed to be warm and safe on the outside, with smooth surfaces, no cold or hot spots, and a comfortable shape. It is also loaded with safety features, which ensure it won’t overheat or over-charge.
Ultra easy to use, the Fourheart has only one button, for power on and off and to switch between three temperature levels: 107° F (42°C), 118° F (48° C) and 131° F (55° C), and will stay warm for up to 8 hours on a charge.
A great little gadget to always keep in your glove compartment, the Fourheart Rechargeable Hand Warmers is our choice for best portable battery powered heater for cars in 2020.
They also make the perfect holiday gift for people you care about!
What is the Best Portable Cigarette Lighter Heater for my Car?
This category will cover the last four recommendations in our 2020 buyer’s guide for best portable heaters for cars – the Vosarea Portable 12V Car Heater, the COMFIER 12 Volt Heated Car Seat Cushion, the Sojoy 12V Heated Travel Blanket,and the Hot Logic 12 Volt Food Warming Tote – all four of which plug into the cigarette lighter of your car.
What is the best portable windshield heater for cars in 2020?
Vosarea Portable 12V Car Heater
We are going to start our recommendations for portable cigarette lighter heaters with the most problematic type of heater – the dashboard heater/defroster.
And why are they so problematic? Well, we have tried many different dashboard heaters, and researched lots more, and there is only one possible conclusion: none of them are any good!
These apparently clever and often cool looking gadgets promise to sit easily on your dashboard and keep your windshield frost-free, and maybe even heat up the car’s interior as well.
In truth, though, they do none of that. What they do is make pathetic little whirring noises, put out almost no heat, or even air, do absolutely nothing to clear the front window, in fact even reduce visibility by blocking your view and – to add injury to insult – often blow fuses in your car’s electrical system.
We had totally given up on the idea when we came across the nifty little Vosarea, which is not only the best car heater for your cigarette lighter socket, it’s the only one that actually works.
Looking like an oddly misshapen hair dryer, the Vosarea 12 volt heater actually puts out some hot air, enough to help you warm up and defrost your front windshield. You can use it on your hands and feet as well.
The Vosarea comes with a mounting bracket for your dashboard, but also has a handle for spot use. We highly recommend using it in this way, as a hand-held windshield heater, because it will better heat and clear the entire window and will not block your view.
Please keep in mind that using the Vosarea windshield heater in this way is not to be done while you are driving – it is dangerous and distracting to do so, and especially so in slick and icy winter conditions. In any conditions, you should pull over and fully stop the vehicle before attempting to use this hand-held heater on your windows, or in any other way.
The Vosarea 12V portable car heater comes with a cigarette lighter adapter, is made from high quality ABS plastic and feels nice and solid in the hand.
There must be hundreds of 12 volt heaters which claim to do what this nice little unit actually does, but believe us – they don’t. The Vosarea portable 12 volt car heater is the one you can count on, and is our choice for best portable dashboard heater for cars in 2020.
What is the Best Portable Seat Warmer for my Car?
COMFIER 12 Volt Heated Car Seat Cushion
If the last category consisted of one single stand-out product in a field of heaters that didn’t work at all, this category in our list of best portable car heaters in 2020 is almost exactly the opposite.
You see, there are lots of wonderful seat warmers available for your car, which make driving so much warmer and more cozy for you, your passengers and maybe even your cats and dogs. And testing them out has been an enjoyable and heart warming experience – well, not exactly heart-warming…
And still, selecting the best seat warmer currently available was actually quite easy.
The Comfier heated car seat cushion really lives up to its name – somehow it is just comfier than the others, with a plush faux suede covering and high density foam beneath. Soft, supportive and luxurious feeling.
It is also extremely effective in heating the body, with its two separate heaters, each with two temperature settings, and it warms up quickly and keeps the heat even and consistent.
The Comfier 12 volt seat warmer is safe, with a UL listed overheat thermostat and automatic shut-off, and it has a three stage shut-off timer as well. The control panel is easy to read and easy to use, and will not be too distracting – it is still recommended, though, that you do not adjust your Comfier seat heater while you are driving.
This wonderful product is designed to fit any car or truck seat, and the straps and non-slip backing make it easy to install and keep it in place without any annoying shifting or slipping.
Well engineered and well made, the Comfier 12 Volt Heated Car Seat Cushion is an extremely high quality product that will keep you nicely warm in any conditions, and is our choice for best portable seat warmer for cars in 2020.
Make sure to get a splitter for your cigarette lighter socket so that you can use more than one Comfier heated cushion at the same time. We recommend the Yantu 3 Socket Splitter, which also includes two USB sockets.
And if you really want to go crazy with comfort, we also love the Snailax Memory Foam Heated Seat Cushion with Massage – just don’t get so relaxed that you can’t drive!
What is the Best Portable Electric Blanket for my Car?
Sojoy 12V Heated Travel Blanket
And speaking of too relaxed to drive, I keep having this terrible fear that the next product on our list of best portable car heaters in 2020 – a soft, plush, totally innocent electric blanket – is dangerous!
So please, let your loving partner, your children and your pets, snuggle up in the luxurious warmth of Sojoy electric car blankets, but don’t use one while you are driving lest you get so warm and comfortable that you drift off to sleep!
This super fleecy blanket warms up so nicely and so quickly, especially considering how light and how soft it is, and its dimensions are ideal for a car – big enough to cover you, but not so big that it gets in the way or distracts the driver. And the power cord is over 5 feet long, plenty long enough to reach to the back seat.
The Sojoy 12 volt electric blanket has 3 temperature settings and 3 timer settings, all controlled with a handy, easy to read and easy to use hand controller. And Sojoy products are fully machine-washable – a real rarity among electric blankets.
If you like to keep the car’s heater low while you drive but your passengers get cold, if you and your partner can’t agree on running the air conditioner, or if your car heater just isn’t warming things up enough, this is a great solution.
Indeed, there are many situations where the Sojoy 12 volt heated car blanket can be useful, and it is always a joy to have and to use.
The nicest, softest, safest and most useful electric automobile blanket on the market today, the Sojoy 12V Heated Travel Blanket is our choice for the best portable electric blanket for cars in 2020.
And if you have two or more passengers, or if your dogs don’t like to share, you should get a splitter for your lighter socket so that you can use more than one electric blanket. We recommend the Yantu 3 Socket Splitter, which also includes two USB sockets.
What is the best 12 volt heated lunchbox for cars in 2020?
Hot Logic 12 Volt Food Warming Tote
Our final item in this 2020 buyer’s guide and review of best portable heaters for the car is not actually meant to warm you up – or, at least not directly.
Every once in a while you come across a product that is so useful, works so well and is so special that it develops a fierce loyalty among its customers, and the Hot Logic 12 volt food heater is just such a product.
The Hot Logic electric car stove is so much more, though, than just a food warmer. It will reheat leftovers and keep them at your desired temperature, but it will also cook foods – even frozen or raw meat – quickly and easily, with no muss and no fuss, and keep them too at the perfect temperature until you are ready to eat.
I somehow didn’t believe it could be so easy, but you literally just put food in, plug it into the car’s lighter socket and come back in a few hours – anywhere from 1 to 12 hours for precooked food, and 1 to 12 hours if the food needs cooking.
The Hot Logic Food Warming Tote doesn’t dry food out, it preserves all of the flavor and it makes absolutely no mess. It is also absurdly easy to clean. Really, what’s not to love?
Not just for campers or RVs, the Hot Logic 12V Food Warming Tote is so useful for long road trips or for working commuters who want to save money on lunch every day. It’s our choice for best 12 volt heated lunch box for cars in 2020, and is one of the most effective and useful gadgets we’ve even come across!
Should I Buy a Portable Heater for my Car?
If you live in a cold climate, or ever travel though cold and wintry conditions, and you don’t already have an emergency heater in your car, the answer is definitely yes.
When you run out of gas, get stuck in snow or ice, your car breaks down or you simply need to pull over because of the conditions, you may have to wait in your car for help, and that can often take anywhere from an hour to several hours – sometimes you may be stuck overnight!
In those situations, an emergency heater can literally save your life, and in any case it will make waiting much more comfortable, and help keep you and your family calm and positive.
And for anybody who just wants a little more heat in the interior of their car, a portable heater can also be a great idea – not one of those sad little blowers that pop fuses and don’t really put out any heat, but a remarkably effective and satisfying seat warmer or electric blanket. What a difference they can make on those cold winter drives!
Whether you are looking for assurance and backup in case of emergency, warmth and comfort, or even nicely cooked hot food, you can select any one of the products on our buyer’s guide – Top 7 Portable Heaters for your Car (2020 Edition) – with total confidence, and we’re sure you’ll be more than happy with your purchase.