What is the Best 12 Volt Portable Car Heater?

By | October 28, 2019

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.

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.
best-12-volt-portable-car-heater-2017
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.

Best Alternative Option (12V Air Diesel Fuel Heater Kit)
Another good option for someone serious about a good heat source is 12V Air Diesel Fuel Heaters.

There are many kits available that come with everything needed to install a package.

This included a small fuel tank, 12-volt electrical, gas line, vent, and the heater.

The install is not for everyone but is a good option for a handy type of person looking for the best possible heating source.

12V Air Diesel Fuel Heater on Amazon
TABODD New 12V Air Diesel Fuel Heater 5KW Vehicle Heater LCD Monitor Silencer 5000W for Trucks Boats Bus Car Motor-Homes Orange

 
Best 12 Volt / Gas Car Heaters Comparison Table

Name 12 VoltGas Heat OutputInstallation
Imoocare Portable Car HeaterYesNoVery LowEasy
STYCC Car HeaterYesNoVery LowEasy
HealthMate IN9438 Car SeatYesNoGood for body onlyEasy
Mr. Heater Little Buddy NoYesGood High Heat OutputEasy
RoadPro RPSL-681YesNoLowModerate
12V Air Diesel Fuel HeaterYesYesGood High Heat OutputModerate

Below is some of the options to choose from to add heat to a car.

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

  1. Imoocare Portable Car Heater
  2. 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.

    150 Watts is roughly the same amount of heat as a cup of coffee.

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

  3. STYCC Car Heater
  4. 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 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.
     

  5. HealthMate IN9438
  6. 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.
     

  7. RoadPro RPSL-681 12V Direct Hook-Up
  8. RoadPro RPSL-681 12V Direct Hook-Up Ceramic Heater/Fan w/Swivel Base

    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.
    What is the Best 12 Volt Portable Car Heater Road Pro
    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. TABODD New 12V Air Diesel Fuel Heater 5KW Vehicle Heater LCD Monitor Silencer 5000W for Trucks Boats Bus Car Motor-Homes Orange

    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 install 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 TABODD units being popular.

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

Electric Heater and Cigarette Lighter Fuse / 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 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 replacement fuse is on hand.
 
Summary
A cars electrical system was never designed to handle the 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 the power off to the lighter while others don’t. If the power does not get shut off they will drain your battery.



 




 

2 thoughts on “What is the Best 12 Volt Portable Car Heater?

  1. 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

    Reply

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