What is the Best 12-Volt Portable Plug In Car Heater?

By | August 2, 2023

What is the Best 12 Volt Portable Car Heater
12-volt electric car heaters are an option when it comes to helping to heat your vehicle.

Notice I say help to heat.

12-Volt heaters do not have enough power output to heat a car or truck the way a standard heater does.
Best 12 Volt Portable Car Heater 2021
In fact, depending on how cold the place you live is, they might not even seem to work at all.

Most portable plug in car heaters can only put out around 150-180 Watts of heat.

Compare this to a hair blow dryer which can put out 1200-1500 Watts, and you can see there is not much heat output.

With that said, they can help or supplement heat, but relying on one to completely heat a vehicle would be unrealistic.

Below are some of the options to choose when adding heat to a car.

As always, be sure to read reviews on Amazon, forums, or elsewhere to ensure a unit is a right pick for you.

*This site contains affiliate paid links for which a commission earned.

Our Picks for Best 12-Volt Portable Plug In Car Heaters

  1. STYCC Car Heater
  2. Best 12-Volt Portable Plug In Car Heaters 2023
    Available Here on Amazon

    This type of heater is what most think of when it comes to a portable window defroster.

    A small unit like this will also have limitations and, like the unit above, puts out as much heat as a cup of coffee.

    Units like this will help you to warm your hands up, help defrost a section of a window, and add to existing heat but don’t expect it to do wonders.

    This small heater, while built to defrost windows, won’t do much, especially in extremely cold weather.

    It puts out 150 watts and, like most units, gets power from the cigarette lighter.

    If you live in a mild temperature climate, it may do the trick. In a very cold climate, it may barely be noticeable.

    While most will need more heat, many have had good results with the unit; simply beware of its limitations.

  3. Akozon 12V 600W Car Heater
  4. Available Here on Amazon

    The Akozon car heater is a kit that can be installed, and wires run directly to the battery.

    This makes it more ideal compared to a cigarette lighter which is limited to how much voltage it can have.

    It can output 600 Watts which, while not huge amount of heat, is much better compared to other units.

    The installation will require mounting the unit in the vehicle and running wires to the battery.

  5. HealthMate IN9438
  6. Available Here on Amazon

    A seat cushion heater is a good alternative option if you simply want to help your body stay warm.

    The HealthMate 12 Volt seat heater is a popular option with many and works well enough.

    It will not warm the entire car but has a low amp draw compared to other vehicle heaters.

    These types of heaters are a good option for helping you stay warm in the winter when in your car or truck.

  7. RoadPro RPSL-681 12V Direct Hook-Up
  8. What is the Best 12 Volt Portable Car Heater Road Pro
    Available Here on Amazon

    The RoadPro RPSL-681 is for anyone looking to get more from an electrical unit.

    It hooks directly to the battery and can give out up to 300 Watts of heating power.

    12 gauge wire will need to be run to the battery, which is likely not for everyone but does work once set up.

    Like all electrical options, it is not the best but does work much better compared to the cigarette lighter-powered units.

  9. 12V Air Diesel Fuel Heater
  10. Available Here on Amazon

    12-volt diesel fuel heaters are for a very serious user that needs a good heating source.

    They work very well and will have no problems heating a car, truck, or larger vehicles.

    The installation is more involved and not for everyone, with a small gas tank, electric, and mounting needing to be set up.

    There are many kits available, with the Happybuy units being popular.

    While more expensive compared to other heating units and more difficult to install, diesel fuel heaters work very well.

12-Volt Car Heaters Comparison Table

Name 12 VoltGas Heat OutputInstallation
STYCC Car HeaterYesNoVery LowEasy
Akozon YesNoMediumModerate
HealthMate IN9438 Car SeatYesNoGood for body onlyEasy
RoadPro RPSL-681YesNoLowModerate
12-Volt Air Diesel Fuel HeaterYesYesGood High Heat OutputModerate

Electric Heater and Cigarette Lighter Fuse / Wiring

Depending on your car, the cigarette lighter circuit may not supply enough power to run a car heater.

Some portable heaters need a 15 Amp circuit to run and may blow the cigarette lighter fuse.

Again this depends on the heater, with a seat heater needing as low as 3.5 amps.

Be sure to read how many amps are needed to run the small heating device.

Also, be sure to check your car manual to see how many amps the cigarette lighter can operate.

It is also a good idea to know where the fuse is to the cigarette lighter just in case it blows and needs replacing.

While it is not common for the fuse to blow, they are usually easy to replace when the location is known and the replacement fuse is on hand.

Are There Better Car Heating Options Than 12-Volt Heaters?

This depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

For example, car seat heaters are good at warming up your body but won’t do much for defrosting a window.

Since most portable car heaters don’t put out much heat to defrost windows quickly, I would suggest going with the car seat heater to help your body stay warm.

Using a small gas heater is an option for many users since they put out a lot of heat and don’t rely on a vehicle’s 12-volt system.

The Mr. Heater MH4B Little Buddy is one such small gas-powered unit.
Mr. Heater MH4B Little Buddy on Amazon
Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater, Medium

Mr. Heater Little Buddy is an alternative to 12-volt systems.
It has tip-over protection, a low oxygen turn-off sensor, and easy screw-on bottles.

Of course, this is a personal option, and reading reviews on Amazon or other places is the best option for getting a car heater that works for you.

Can a Portable Heater Be Placed in a Car?

Yes, a portable heater can be placed in a car, but it may not output much heat.

A car or truck 12-volt battery system does not output a lot of power to run a heater.

Often 12-volt electric portable car heater under-preform expectations and outputs roughly the same heat as a cup of coffee.

With that said, they can be placed in a vehicle and may help in some scenarios.

A car’s electrical system was never designed to handle the large power output required by producing heat.

For this reason, keep in mind that these small heating devices will not put out as much heat as many want.

With that in said, they can help take the edge off.

Another thing to keep in mind is not to leave one of these devices plugged into a vehicle’s cigarette lighter.

Some cars will turn the power off to the lighter while others don’t. If the power does not get shut off, it will drain your battery.

Category: Car and Truck Travel Accessories

About Bob Thomas

Bob Thomas is an automotive mechanic with 30 plus years experience. He is a contributor to several publications and has written many articles on automotive maintenance and repairs. He also has created many auto repair videos on YouTube.

4 thoughts on “What is the Best 12-Volt Portable Plug In Car Heater?

  1. Richard

    Hey. I think first one is better as for me. I use it too. (Kia i30)

  2. Shannon Ross

    Is there anywhere online I can find how to install a car heater that taps into my electric supply and water tank?

  3. Mike

    Hello! I want to buy Portable Car Heaters. I think between Mr. Heater Little Buddy and Schumacher 1225 12V 150W Ceramic Heater and Fan, i read about them something here, something on others sites, but still have a question: which one is better? (Ford Focus)!
    With regards Mike

    1. Mikey

      Sounds like your car heater is leaking/busted. Search google for automotive car heater kit, or automobile auxillary heater kit, start at $60 USD


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