9 Best 12V Electric Coolers [Top Picks, Buying Guide, and FAQs]

The biggest concern for campers and tailgaters everywhere is keeping drinks and food cold for days out on the road or campsite.

If you don’t want the hassle of melting ice bags and wet supplies, a 12v cooler is just what you need!

The beauty of 12v coolers is that they DON’T require any ice. Electric coolers only need a cigarette plug to generate cold air.

It’s perfect for short trips or extended excursions out in the country.

From lightweight coolers to mini-fridges, we reviewed the nine best 12v coolers to help you find the right choice.

The 9 Best 12V Coolers

Planning a road trip to the great outdoors?

A 12v cooler can keep your food and drinks cool while eliminating the struggle of cleaning up melting ice.

See our top picks for the best 12v cooler, the best budget 12v cooler, the best value, and more below.

1: Dometic CFX3 35-Liter Cooler – Best Overall


  • Dimensions: ‎27.32″ x 15.67″ x 16.02″
  • Weight: 37 lbs.
  • Capacity: 35 liters
  • Refrigeration: Compressor

This Dometic portable fridge is a true powerhouse among the electric coolers on the market today.

With temperatures reaching -7 degrees Fahrenheit, it can deep freeze game or fish for spoil-free storage.

It has two separate compartments for organization, an interior light for visibility and drain plugs for easy cleaning.

This Dometic model also has a scratch-resistant and waterproof digital display that helps you keep track of the cooler metrics!

Using the CFX3 app, you can remotely manage the cooler’s temperature and power consumption.

It works with solar, AC, and DC power, allowing greater versatility.

Combined with high-tech features and versatile functionality, Dometic’s CFX3 12v cooler easily tops our list. Get it on Amazon .


  • It can work as a refrigerator and a freezer
  • Includes an app for remote management
  • Compatible with multiple power sources


  • Expensive
  • Bulky form may be difficult to transport

2: Wagan 12V Personal Thermoelectric – Best Value


  • Dimensions: ‎19″ x 10.25″ x 12″
  • Weight: 8 lbs.
  • Capacity: 14 liters
  • Refrigeration: Thermoelectric

Wagan 12V thermoelectric cooler is a compact unit that offers great value at an affordable price.

It can keep supplies cold as low as37 degrees below the ambient temperature and warm food at a maximum temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

The cooling and warming functions are located at the lid, which is properly sealed to ensure maximum insulation.

Despite its slim design, you can fit up to 12 liters of cans or water bottles and two-liter wine bottles.

It includes a 9-inch DC power cord you can extend from the car trunk and shoulder straps for better portability.

If you intend to run it on another power source, you’ll have to purchase the AC adapter separately.

See it on Amazon.


  • Reasonably priced
  • Can keep food warm and chilled
  • Spacious compartments
  • Lightweight and portable


  • AC adapter is purchased separately
  • Needs to be removed from the power source when the vehicle is turned off

3: Igloo 28 Quart Thermoelectric Portable 12V Cooler – Best Budget Pick

Electric Cooler & Warmer - 34 Quart (32 Liter)

Dual 110V AC House and 12V DC Vehicle Plugs 

Check Price


  • Dimensions: ‎18.25″ x 12.87″ x 16.62″
  • Weight: 12.5 lbs.
  • Capacity: 24 liters
  • Refrigeration: Thermoelectric

For a reliable portable electric cooler, the Igloo Thermoelectric 12V Cooler is a solid choice for budget-conscious buyers.

Simply plug it into a 12v power supply, and it can cool supplies 36 degrees Fahrenheit below ambient temperatures.

It can hold up to 24 liters of contents, which means you can fill it with up to 32 12-oz. cans.

A quiet motor can circulate cold air for ice-free cooling wherever your adventure takes you.

This 12-volt cooler is designed with a curved exterior and Igloo’s signature carry handle for easier transportation.

The air vents and motor are conveniently placed on the lid, making it easier to store in-between seats.

Made from lightweight and waterproof polyurethane, it’s a durable unit you can take anywhere! Get it on Amazon.


  • Affordable
  • Easy to carry
  • Quiet motor
  • Durable construction


  • No optional AC adapter
  • The power cord is easily breakable

4: Electric Cooler & Warmer – Best Large-Capacity


  • Dimensions: ‎22″ x 15″ x 15″
  • Weight: 16 lbs.
  • Capacity: 45 liters
  • Refrigeration: Thermoelectric

K-box Electric Cooler is the perfect companion for any large group gathering or the truly dedicated traveler.

This car cooler can hold up to 60 12-oz. cans or 15 soda cans with 6 two-liter bottles!

Worried about the weight? It comes with transport wheels and a folding handle so you can lug it around even when fully loaded.

It combines the cooling capacity of a fridge and the warming feature of a microwave to keep your supplies at the perfect temperature.

This electric cooler has a removable basket for better organization and a separate socket to store your power cords when not in use.

This large-capacity cooler can meet all the demands you throw at it, whether you want to keep your food warm or cold for the whole party.

Get it on Amazon.


  • Compatible with AC and DC power
  • Convenient cable storage
  • Includes warming features
  • Has wheels for portability


  • High power usage
  • Side handles are not durable

5: Dometic CFX375DZ – Best Premium


  • Dimensions: 19.5″ x 35.9″ x 18.6″
  • Weight: 71 lbs.
  • Capacity: 75 liters
  • Refrigeration: Compressor

Dometic is a brand known for its high-quality portable refrigerators, and the CFX3-75DZ cooler is no exception.

It has a generous interior capacity of 75 liters with dual compartments that you can control separately.

It’s a dual-zone unit that not only functions as a refrigerator but as a freezer as well.

With a dynamic battery protection system, this portable refrigerator can draw from dual batteries for optimum power efficiency.

It’s equipped with Dometic’s best technologies, including a high-resolution color display, CFX3 app compatibility, and a powerful compressor.

This cooler is made with a durable ExoFrame construction capable of withstanding harsh outdoor conditions. You’re paying for cutting-edge cooling technology that can last for years.

Check it on Amazon.


  • Extra large capacity
  • Dual-zoned
  • Can be managed remotely
  • Extremely durable


  • Heavy
  • It can take up space
  • Expensive

6: Koolatron 12V Compact Electric Cooler and Warmer – Best Space-Saver


  • Dimensions: 17.25″ x 8.75″ x 16″
  • Weight: 5 lbs.
  • Capacity: 17 liters
  • Refrigeration: Thermoelectric

If you’re looking for a cooler you can easily store in your minivan or sedan, the Koolatron 12V Compact Electric Cooler might just be what you need.

It has a slim design with tall exterior dimensions that can fit as many as 23 soda cans without hogging too much space in your vehicle.

Not only can it keep your supplies cold, but it also functions as a food warmer!

It can efficiently warm up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and cool at a 40-degree temperature difference.

This Koolatron 12V cooler has an easy-to-open lid, a cord compartment, and a foldable handle for your convenience.

Although it’s the only cooler in this list made in Canada, Koolatron has been a leading brand in manufacturing 12-volt coolers for three decades.

Get it on Amazon.


  • Lightweight and portable
  • Space-saving design
  • Includes warming feature


  • Limited capacity
  • The fan is easily breakable

7: Coleman PowerChill Portable Thermoelectric Cooler – Best Versatile


  • Dimensions: 23.5″ x 15.3″ x 17″
  • Weight: 47 lbs.
  • Capacity: 46 liters
  • Refrigeration: Thermoelectric

If you know anything about coolers, then you’ve probably heard of Coleman.

Coleman’s PowerChill Thermoelectric Cooler is a sleek mini-fridge style cooler that delivers on the brand’s reliable cooling technology.

What we liked about this unit is its versatility. You can keep it upright and open it like a fridge or lay it down for more storage capacity.

It gives you more room to decide how to store it depending on your needs.

This Coleman PowerChill cooler is capable of cooling your supplies in as fast as 3 hours, making it incredibly energy efficient.

It can also heat food up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit above ambient air temperature.

At 40-qt. capacity, you can store as many as 44 soda cans and some snacks too! It also includes an 8-foot DC cable and a handy divider for organized storage.

Get it on Amazon.


  • Includes warming feature
  • Multiple opening options
  • It can work as a mini fridge or a chest cooler


  • It can take up considerable space

8: Alpicool C40 Portable Refrigerator – Best Multi-mode

Portable Refrigerator, 12 Volt Car Freezer, 42 Quart(40 Liter)

Fast Cooling 12V Car Fridge Freezer, Car Cooler for RV, Truck, Camping, Outdoor -12/24V DC and 100-240V AC Black and Silver...

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  • Dimensions: 14.4″ x 22.6″ x 13.8″
  • Weight: 34.5 lbs.
  • Capacity: 40 liters
  • Refrigeration: Thermoelectric

For those who want full control over their cooling settings, Alpicool C40 Portable Refrigerator offers just that.

It’s equipped with intelligent cooling technology you won’t find anywhere else.

Alpicool C40 has a max mode for high-speed cooling and an eco mode to reduce battery drain.

The eco-cooling mode is particularly useful because this unit draws a lot from your vehicle’s battery capacity.

As an alternative, you can also plug it into a solar battery bank or portable power station.

With a maximum temperature of –4 degrees Fahrenheit, it can deliver all your cooling needs.

It’s built with heavy-duty stainless steel and sturdy handles for added durability. Check it out on Amazon.


  • It can work as a refrigerator and a freezer
  • Multiple cooling settings
  • Fast cooling time


  • Consumes energy more
  • Noisy motor

9: AstroAI 12-volt Car Fridge Cooler – Best Features


  • Dimensions: 12.6″ x 22.2″ x 9.8″
  • Weight: 20.6 lbs.
  • Capacity: 35 liters
  • Refrigeration: Thermoelectric

AstroAI 12-volt Car Fridge Cooler is a feature-packed unit you can get at an affordable price.

It can cool down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit in about 15 minutes and reach its lowest temperature of -4 degrees in only 45 minutes!

It has three modes of battery protection to reduce energy consumption so you can prevent unnecessary power drains.

This cooler also has an LED display panel and a built-in interior light for better visibility when you get the munchies at night.

You can even charge your phone using its USB port. It also includes a child safety lock that prevents accidental opening and spills.

AstroAI 12-volt Car Fridge Cooler comes with both DC and AC adapters for home or vehicle use. You can even plug it into portable power stations if you want to use it outdoors.

Get it on Amazon.


  • Comes with battery protection modes
  • Includes child safety lock
  • Includes USB port
  • Includes DC and AC power adapters
  • Fast cooling time


  • Limited storage capacity

Buying Guide: What to Consider When Choosing 12V Coolers

12v coolers are convenient for on-the-go refrigeration. But not all of them are created equal.

Whether you’re spending a weekend in the woods or hosting a barbecue during tailgating season, the right 12v cooler for you should be able to deliver a solid performance.

Let’s look at the key features of 12-volt coolers that you need to consider:

1: Insulation

The cooling system is the first thing you have to look into before purchasing a 12-volt cooler.

A quality 12v cooler should maintain a constant internal temperature.

The temperature shouldn’t drop too fast, even when the lid is open. You should get a few hours of cooling once your car cooler is disconnected from a power source.

Look for a 12-volt cooler with a tightly-sealed lid to ensure that it can withstand direct sun exposure.

2: Storage Capacity

Are you going to use a 12-volt cooler for yourself or for your family of four? Do you need one that can readily fit into your car trunk?

Buying a 12v cooler that is bigger than what you need means higher costs and less storage space.

On the other hand, you’ll have to shop for more supplies frequently with a smaller 12v cooler.

For truck drivers and outdoorsmen who are frequently on the road, a large-capacity 12-volt cooler is ideal.

If you’re a solo user, a 30-qt. 12v cooler size should be enough. A 12v cooler with a 45-qt. capacity is generally recommended for those who plan to store food for two people.

Dual-zone fridge/freezer coolers are best for large groups.

3: Energy Efficiency

Unlike standard coolers, a 12-volt cooler requires a power source to function.

As a result, the energy consumption of a unit is a significant concern.

The more energy efficient your appliance is, the longer time you can spend off the grid.

Battery and solar-powered coolers may have higher initial costs, but they can save you more money in the long term.

Many high-quality 12v coolers combine well-built insulation, specifications, and compressor controls to provide greater energy efficiency.

4: Portability

Generally, 12-volt coolers are designed to be transportable from place to place.

If you want a 12v cooler you can move from the back of your car to the campsite, you need to look at certain features.

Make sure it has a lightweight body with durable handles and optional towing wheels.

Alternatively, if you simply want to keep your 12v cooler in one place, a unit with a large internal space and great cooling capacity should work well.

5: Price

12-volt coolers come in a variety of price points: from top-of-the-line to budget buys.

Standard thermoelectric coolers come at less than $100. They have reliable cooling and warming functions that can work for casual weekend trips.

At $300 to $500, you can find high-end thermoelectric coolers and compressor coolers with freezer options.

Premium 12v coolers with quality components, large capacity, and state-of-the-art construction can get up to $1,000.

Top cooler brands like Dometic and Engel are known for their exceptional coolers, but their steep prices can make them rather exclusive.

Nowadays, there are affordable brands that incorporate quality compressors capable of going head-to-head, with many higher-end brands out there.

What Are the Benefits of 12V Coolers?

A 12-volt car cooler is a great alternative to many traditional coolers.

See what 12-volt coolers can bring to the table:

  • Refrigeration: Allows you to keep beverages and food cold for a longer period
  • Convenience: Keepsfresh food readily availableandeliminates the need for ice
  • Cost-effective: You can save money with stored food instead of eating out at restaurants
  • Longer recreational time: Lets you enjoy camping trips longer with a stockpile of food and drinks
  • Shorter travel time: Bypasses the need to make pit stops to buy supplies

What Are the Different Types of 12V Coolers?

There are THREE MAIN TYPES of 12v coolers that are available today.

Let’s look at each type to get a better understanding of how they work:

1: Absorption Refrigerators

Most commonly found in recreational vehicles (RVs), absorption refrigerators have three power sources: 12V DC, 110V AC, and propane.

It has a high power draw that can easily drain battery power.

As a result, absorption refrigerators tend to be inefficient for prolonged outdoor use. Running them on 110v AC can deplete your inverter, while propane requires an additional fuel line.

Most absorption refrigerators rely on the outside environment to maintain temperature and can only cool up to 30 degrees below ambient temperature.

2: Compression Cooler

Compressor fridges are the most common form of 12v coolers. It is designed much like home refrigerators.

These coolers are built for efficiency and durability.

The cooling system of a compression cooler depends on a cooling agent that manages the temperature.

High-quality compressors that require little energy can function as freezers, refrigerators, or both!

These coolers can work effectively even at an incline, compared to other coolers that need to be level when running.

The drawback of this type is that they are comparatively more EXPENSIVE than other options. They also need an auxiliary battery and other charging sources (e.g., solar panels).

3: Thermoelectric Cooler

Thermoelectric coolers can draw power from a 12-volt power source but cannot keep frozen food.

A 12v thermoelectric cooler can only cool 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below the ambient temperature.

It can work well in colder climates but is generally inefficient if the outside temperature is above 77 degrees.

Thermoelectric coolers also require more power than compressor fridges.

If you simply want to keep food and drinks cold during short trips, thermoelectric models are well suited for the job.

Otherwise, a compressor fridge or traditional cooler may be better options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some related questions about 12-volt coolers that may interest you.

How Much Power Does a 12V Cooler Use?

The specific power usage of a 12v cooler depends on many factors, such as:

  • Size
  • Insulation
  • Compressor configuration
  • Chosen cooling temperature
  • Ambient air temperature

Generally, 12-volt coolers consume 45 to 60 watts to maintain a consistent refrigerated temperature.

TAKE NOTE: The watts are only consumed periodically. Your car battery won’t drain immediately when a 12v cooler is actively being used.

Can You Use Ice in a 12V Cooler?

No, you should NOT put ice in a 12-volt cooler.

A 12v cooler can work just fine without ice. However, if the cooler can be configured to freezing temperatures, you can place a bag of ice.

Many 12v coolers can generate temperatures capable of freezing the entire interior compartment.

Can a 12V Cooler Drain the Car Battery?

12-volt coolers DON’T have the capacity to deplete your car battery when the ignition is on.

That said, some models can draw on the power source even when your car is turned off. Running a cooler overnight can also cause significant battery drainage.

Read the machine’s manual thoroughly before keeping it plugged into your car’s battery.

If battery drainage is a concern, look for a 12v cooler with a three-level monitor that allows you to adjust the battery voltage.

A Recap of the Top Picks

To recap, here are our top three picks for the best 12v coolers.

Best Budget Pick: Igloo 28 Quart Thermoelectric Portable 12V Cooler

Reliable and reasonably priced, Igloo 28-qt. This portable 12v cooler is a great budget option for casual campers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

It’s a lightweight but durable unit that can keep up to 24 liters of contents cold.

Best Value: Wagan 12V Personal Thermoelectric

Wagan 12V Personal Thermoelectric not only keeps supplies cool but can also warm them up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Its compact design, thick insulation, and spacious interior give you the best value for money.

Best Overall: Dometic CFX3 35-Liter Portable Cooler

This entry-level model from Dometic’s CFX3 series is a highly efficient unit equipped with the brand’s best cooling technologies.

With a high-tech display, app-controlled management, and a maximum cooling temperature of -7 degrees F, it’s the best cooler you can add to your rig.


A good 12v cooler is one of the best investments you can buy for any multi-day excursion.

Whether you’re in the market for a large-capacity portable fridge or a space-saving cooler, there are various options available.

Among the best 12-volt coolers today are Dometic 35-Liter CFX3, Wagan 12V Personal Thermoelectric, and Igloo 28-qt. Thermoelectric Portable 12V Cooler.

We hope this article helped you find the right cooler option for you.

Good luck!

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