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.
In fact depending how cold the place you live in is they might not even seem to work at all.
Most portable 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 not much is put out.
With that said they can help or supplement heat, but relying on one to completely heat a vehicle would be unrealistic.
Are there better options?
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 simply help your body stay warm.
Using a small gas heater is an option that many use since they put out a lot of heat and don’t rely on a vehicles 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, 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.
As always be sure to read reviews on Amazon, forums, or elsewhere to be sure a unit is the right pick for you.
*This post contains affiliate links.
Our Picks for Best 12 Volt Portable Car Heaters
- imoocare Portable Car Heater
- STYCC Car Heater
- HealthMate IN9438
Portable Car Heater, Fast Heating Defrost Defogger Space Automobile Windscreen Heater, Heat Cooling Fan Ceramic Heater 3-Outlet Plug Adjustable Thermostat in Cigarette Lighter(Black)
This small unit from imoocare is built to sit on a dashboard and defrost a windshield giving a clear line of sight.
It can output 150 Watts and runs from the cigarette lighter.
Car Heater, Portable 60 Seconds Fast Heating Quickly Defrosts Defogger 12V 150W Auto Ceramic Heater Cooling Fan 3-Outlet Plug In Cig Lighter (Red)
This type of heater is what most think of when it comes to a portable window defroster.
A small unit like this will not heat the way many want and puts out about as much heat as a cup of coffee.
Units like this will help you to warm your hands up, help defrost a window, and add to existing heat but don’t expect it to do wonders.
This small heater is built to defrost windows but again don’t expect too much.
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 barley be noticeable.
Wagan Soft Velour 12V Heated Seat Cushion Ultra Plush with High/Low/Off Temperature Control (Black)–IN9438
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.
Cigarette Lighter Fuse and Wiring.
Depending on your car the cigarette lighter circuit may not be able to supply enough power to run a car heater.
Some of these 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 is needed to run the small heating device.
A cars electrical system was never designed to handle large output of power that producing heat requires.
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 vehicles cigarette lighter. Some cars will turn power off to the lighter while other don’t. If the power does not get shut off they will drain your battery.