So you want to enjoy cool beers on the go…(ok maybe not whilst driving the car unless you fancy a stop check). Well whatever you want on the go cold power you are going to need to know the best cool boxes for cars and here is our definitive guide to your best in-car fridges and car coolers!
I am a HUGE FAN of our electric cool box for the car, they’re a necessity for picnic trips, long road trips and camping and hiking holidays. Unlike traditional cooler boxes that rely on ice packs which melt these keep food and drink cool all day long just from your cars’ power. So you dont have to worry about spoilt food (hot sandwiches suck!).
You can get these in-car cooler boxes to fit all car sizes and right up to the huge electric coolers truckers use. There are ones that sit on the seat front and even hold your coffee on the work commute! My personal favourite is the Dometic CDF-11 10.5 Litre Portable Compressor Fridge Freezer.
When choosing one look for those that plug into your cars 12 volt power socket so the food stays cool longer. Personally I recommend the dual electric cool boxes where you can charge up on the home mains as well!
We have used our car cooler box as an overflow fridge sometimes when we have had parties or guests. And for bringing home the shopping one the few WARM days we get in Scotland our Berg cool box for the car is a godsend!
Final recommendations from the testing My friends, family and myself did also considered the pricing, extras and whether it offered a heating element as well.e
All our recommended UK’s best Cool Boxes for cars /car fridges are chosen based on being the best in the following criteria :
- Type of electric cool box
- Power input (12v or 12v/240 Watt)
- Temperature – Cooler or warmer as well
- Removable Lid
- Size & Weight
You can read our detailed buyers guide to picking the best cool box for cars after our top picks in each size range. We also have our FAQS to help you make the right decision and save you from a costly mistake.
Best Extra Small (6/7.5L) Car Cool Boxes
These are 2023´s best 6 – 7.5L Car Cooler Box and are chosen because they offer the best value for money. They are well built and robust, easy to transport and all offer the warming function as well. All of them charge in your 12 Volt Car Charger
Best Small (10/12.5 L) Car Cooler Boxes
These are 2023´s best 10 – 12.5 L Car Cool Boxes and are chosen because they offer the best value for money. They are well built and robust, easy to transport and all offer the warming function as well. All of them charge in your 12 Volt Car Charger and a mains adaptor.
Best Medium (15/25 L) in Car Cool Boxes
These are 2023´s best 15 – 25 L in Car Cooler Boxes and are chosen because they offer the best value for money. They are well built and robust, easy to transport and the better quality, more expensive ones offer the warming function as well.
All of the ones I recommend charge in your 12 Volt Car Charger and a mains adaptor.
On average you can keep up to 30 cans cool in these in the 22-25L versions.
Best Large (26/40 L) in Car Cool Boxes
These are 2023´s best 26 – 40 L in Car Large Cooler Boxes and are chosen because they offer the best value for money. They are well built and robust, easy to transport and the better quality, more expensive ones offer the warming function as well. 2All of the ones I recommend charge in your 12 Volt Car Charger and a mains adaptor.
On average you can keep up to 40 cans cool in these in the Larger cooler box versions.
Best Extra Large Cool Boxes
These are 2023´s best 41l Plus Extra Large Cool Boxes for the car and are chosen because they offer the best value for money. They are well built and robust, easy to transport and the better quality, more expensive ones offer the warming function as well.
All of the ones I recommend charge in your 12 Volt Car Charger and a mains adaptor.
On average you can keep up to 60 cans cool in these in the extra large car cooler boxes.
Have you used any of our recommended cool boxes for the car? Then please leave your review in the comments box below. Is your favourite in car cooler box/portable fridge not on the list? Be sure to let me know in the comments below so I can review it.
Buyers Guide - Best Cool Boxes For Cars
There’s a big selection of electric in car coolers and cool boxe fridges on the market. This makes it hard to cut through the noise to find what’s right for you. Whenever I’m buying picnic products I jot down the key things to look for in any picnic items. Then i make sure to test those features so I know we are buying value for money, durable equipment.
So before you buy a cool box for the car let’s be clear on what features you need from an electric cooler box. Then check out our buyers guide below to compare what your chosen portable fridge is offering in each area:
- Type of electric cool box
- Removable Lid
- Size & Weight
Type of electric cool box
There are two main types of electric cool boxes for the car and they are:
- 12V in car cool boxes of varying sizes
- 12V/240 coolers or combi cool and hot boxes
There beauty of an electric cool box is they are iceless and if you buy a good quality one you wont need to add in ice packs.
For electrical cool boxes there are two main types available.
The first operates just like your fridge at home – so it generates cool air using a motor and compressor. Great insulation is needed in these to keep that cold air in. The beauty of these is they keep stuff cold for a long time, unlike traditional cool boxes or thermoelectric coolers (our second type of cool box for the car).
Compressor fridges can have a freeze option as well in the ‘pro’ options an these are great for caravans and hard core campers. They will give you that depth of temperature range, have a temp display on them are will be quieter than a thermoelectric cooler.
However for me that’s where the benefits end because this kind of ‘outdoor fridge’ is more expensive, heavy, and hard to clean than any the smaller in car cool boxes. I would only consider buying one of these if you want to live outdoors on holiday.
The thermoelectric cooler is perfect if you want more compact, quieter and cost effective cooler. They cool by running electricity through two types of electrical conductor to reduce the temperature. This is called the Peltier effect and is used mainly in computers to stop them overheating.
We prefer the thermoelectric coolers because they can also be used for heating, well actually keeping food warm!
Power - 12V or 12V/ 240V?
Obviously, you cooler needs to have some sort of power source and this will either be 12 V alone or the more useful 12V/240V models. You would be surprised how many products don’t provide you with the proper power cords, so keep an eye out for that. And make sure to check how long the 12V power cord is (if you don’t have a boot based charger you need a longer cable).
The best electric 12V cool boxes come with a power bank so that you can use it when it’s disconnected from the power source. This is great for a day at the beach, country picnic and even camping. Otherwise, make sure to get a product that can take ice packs or is well insulated so when your car is off, and the 12V cooler cant charge, it stays cold.
If you want to manage the power you use with your electric cool box also look for one with a readable in temperature gauge. This allows you to leave the box closed and insultanted and turn it on as needed. In the UK models these seem to only be found in the high end compressor electric camping cool boxes.
Temperature wise none of the cool boxes we recommend will get below 6 Deg C (if you want freezer capacity look at compressor fridges). Most electric cooler boxes keep the food and drinks between 6-10 Deg C whilst plugged in. Heating wise most hot boxes will maintain a temperature of about 65 Deg C when plugged. in.
Key points to understand or take into consideration when buying your cool box/ combie electric hot/cold box are:
- With a 12V cooler it will not run constantly unless your car is running so how long the cooled temperature remains once the unit is unplugged.
- Can you add in additional ice packs to keep the temperature low if you will have it unplugged for a long time.
- Does it have a split lid so you can access the box without opening the whole thing (split lids help keep the box temperature either heated or cooled longer).
- Does your cooler come with a temperature gauge so you can adjust the temperature as you need to (and save on power). Bear in mind in the UK for a cool box with temperature gauge you will likely need to buy a compressor cooler fridge and they are often over ￡500.
Insulation of your Cool Box
Electric cool box insulation is similar to a standard cooler. They are both designed to retain its temperature. Without this insulation, the electrically-generated cold wouldn’t stay in the cooler. The thicker the insulation the better the box will perform when not plugged in.
Getting a box with great insulation will help the cooler stay cool even when it isn’t directly powered (ie 12V cool boxes). My top tip to keep the box cooled when turned off is keep it closed and locked where possible. This is why the split lid boxes perform so well!
Another factor of insulation is how well the cooler locks in smells! This is something to consider when using the box for several days away. Basically you don’t want to attract bugs and beasties to your tent or caravan with food smells and great insulation prevents this!
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.
Split lids are even better for keeping the box at the right temperature.
Removable lids also help with cleaning after use.
Size & Weight
You need your cool box to fit in as much food and drink as possible for picnicking and still be portable! As we are going to be cramming as much food and drink as possible in these electric picnic coolers make sure to buy the lightest one you can. So point one is check out that weight when empty!
There is a huge choice of sizes in iceless electric coolers so base your choice on what you are going to be putting in it. Is it just for wine, beer and cans or are you needing to take a picnic as well.
Look for thermoelectric coolers that don’t require additional ice packs to give you valuable extra storage space. Just put your food and drink in directly from the fridge and freezer to ensure the temperature remains low for as long as possible.
MOst coolers are measured in Litres so if you need an xxl electric cool box look for one of 90 plus Litres. Whereas a Mini 12V thermoelectric car cooler is designed to take a few bottles or water and maybe a packed lunch and start from 7.5L.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most frequent questions and answers
What's the difference between a Thermoelectric Cool Box and a Compressor Fridge?
Firstly the way they function differs and I explain in detail under Types above. From a buyers perspective they differ most in terms of price, weight and whether they can freeze, heat or cool.
Compressor fridges are for the pro camper looking for a fridge freezer close to what you have at home. They are pricey, heavy and not easy to cart about and dont last as long as Electric cool boxes.
For the average picnic fan you just need a Thermoelectrical Cool Box. They cool food and drink for hours and remain cool when unplugged and are designed to fit in smaller spaces and be easily portable.
How do I clean an electric cool box?
Cleaning your cool box will help it last longer and make sure it doesn’t give off unwanted smells to taint food or put you off your picnic.
Cleaning a cooler is easy. Just use a bleach free cleaner or mild dish soap in warm water and a cloth (no scratchy scrubbers should be used). To dry it a microfiber cloth or paper towels.
Use this to wipe the cooler down inside and out and remember to get in all the tricky areas where mildew or caked messes happen so you avoid mold. If you find a really stubborn area i recommend baking soda, made in to a paste and leave it for 10 mins and wipe away.
Dry your cooler and leave it to air dry before you store it so you wont get a musty pong in it! Even the best electrical cool boxes wont last long if you dont clean them after each use.
Do these electric coolers need ice packs?
You want to buy a plug in cool box that doesn’t need extra ice or ice packs so you have maximum space for your food and drinks. The reason you are buying an electric cool box is so you can ditch these heavy and poor performing cooling packs.
If you do want to keep stuff close to frozen then add in frozen food or bottles of water to your cool box before setting out.
Do electric cool boxes always need to be plugged in?
If you buy an electric cooler for car, it’ll work best plugged into your car battery. This won’t damage your battery so long as the car is on. If the car is off, however, it can drain your car battery. This can lead to the unfortunate circumstance of a dead battery and a car that won’t turn over.
Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to keep an electric cooler plugged in for it to work. As long as you keep it closed most of the time, it’ll usually stay cool for a few hours. If you keep opening and closing it, though, it’ll warm up faster. It can help it keep cool longer when it isn’t plugged in if you have ice packs or ice stored in the cooler.
How cold do most electrical cool boxes get?
Most coolers will reach 6-10 Deg C cooled fully and plugged in. If you want them to freezer to up to -20 Deg C then you need a camping compressor fridge.
Do you have a question about in car cool boxes?
Please drop me a line here and lets see if we can answer your in car cooler box or portable fridge questions.
Quickly before we go into recommending picnic seating here are quick links to our other picnic essentials on the site. If you have all these you are sure of the perfect picnic!
- Best Electric Cool Boxes
- Top Cool Bag Rucksacks
- Strong Beach & Festival Trolleys
- Luxury Picnic Baskets
- Easiest Folding Picnic Tables
- Thermos Flask & Food Flask
- Best Beach Tents
- Top Picnic Chairs & Seating
Can you think of another essential picnic items I need to include? If so drop me a line in the comments.
Last update on 2024-02-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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