how to keep warm in the car

Portable heaters, heated car seats and other automobile gadgets are extremely popular in winter. Online stores sell hundreds of them. Such a wide range can easily confuse an inexperienced buyer. We have decided to find out just for you: which one is the best? Here are some of the cases when it can come handy.

Why are Car Heaters So Popular?

  • You travel in winter. Any long road is a way to many dangers and adventures, especially in winter. What if you get stuck in the high snowdrifts far from the civilized world? Or what if you won’t be able to heat up the door lock of your car in the morning? Surely, some heat will be useful then!

  • Your car heating system doesn’t work well, wind up too slowly and break down. Portable ones work fast and practically don’t depend on external conditions

  • You like to save money. Many automotive corporations charge enormous sums of money for seat, window and air heating in the cars. Why pay so much? Almost all of the car heaters are considered to be cost-saving. This is very reasonable, especially if you are used to counting every penny.

  • You earn living by driving. Our analysis of online stores comments sections has shown that drivers, truckers and taxi drivers most often buy automobile heating gadgets. 

Best Portable Car Heaters

We always vouch for quality and we want to help you become an expert in the world of car heaters and so we try to find the best and most useful ones. But when we started writing this review, it turned out that there are very few portable car heaters on the market which are worth buying. The grand majority of such devices have a very low rating - only 2 out of 5 stars.

You won’t believe this, it’s the first time we’ve encountered such a situation! But then we thought that you deserve to know the truth. That’s why here is the naked truth about portable car heaters.

But we've found something worthy. We’ll start with the cut-rate models under $30, and then we’ll tell you about Tractor and Truck Car Heaters, and will finish with the best selling Trailer Heater.

12V Heaters for Car under $30

Here it is, a typical one with the rating of 2 stars out of 5. There are over 90% of such car heaters on the market.

RoadPro RPSL-581

Road Pro portable car heaterIt heats up quite fast and works well in moderate temperature. It has a fan and a heating mode. However, RoadPro 12V is not frost-proof. The manufacturers kindly ask the customers to read the manual and not to heat it if the battery was previously frosted. We’ll add that it won’t be able to heat up the entire windshield when the temperature is low. It will only heat up the space in front of itself.

By the way, most of the clone car heaters under different names have the same problem. Almost all of their power is limited to the capacity of the electrical system of the car. Long story short: if you don’t understand the details of your car’s energy systems, don’t buy it.

Price: ~$24.72 Check the current price

Next comes the #1 Best Seller in Automotive Heaters section, Peak PKCOJ5 12V Heater and Fan/DefrosterIt’s strange to see a bestselling item have such a low Amazon.com rating - 2 out of 5 stars. But it seems like this is the best one on the market today, and people are forced to buy whatever is sold.

the bestselling portable car heaterAccording to the buyers’ comments, Peak is supplied with a 15A adapter fuse. Some users recommend using an extension cord to connect it straight to the battery. In this case, “This baby heater will heat your entire car”. If you have neither time nor effort for such action, you’ll find that the product’s real productivity is rather mediocre.

Price: from~$20 Check the current price

 Big Electric Car Heater 

On we go! This gadget belongs to a different size segment. You needn’t connect this box to a socket, you’d better connect it straight to the battery. The manufacturers position their invention as a tractor and truck device. You’ll also find space for it in SUVs. It might be a bit too complicated for the owners of hatchbacks and sedans, though. Most often it is bought for heating the tractor cabin or by truck drivers for overnight stays.

RoadPro RPSL-681 12V Direct Hook-Up Ceramic Heater/Fan with Swivel Base

tractor and truck car heaterThis heater rated at 3 out of 5 stars is recommended to install in a hanging positions, which means that placing it inside the vehicle is restricted. You won’t be able to put it on the floor or the dashboard. A certain advantage of this ~$69.49 device is the 14 ft cord it has. The only thing that makes us worry is that here the users also complain of lack of heat and say that “This one is better than other models. And it is surely better than nothing. But of course this cannot replace a real heater; this is more like a powerful hairdryer.”

In general, it turns out that there is alternative heater for trucks and tractors on the market. 

Recently a new model, Back Seat Heat Plus 1100 BTU 12V Truck Heater for a crazy price - $99.95 has been launched, but it is still a pig in a poke. It has less than 10 reviews and it’s too early to judge its quality.

Trailer Heater

Finally we have a rather reliable and state-of-the-art heater here. We can’t call it a purely automobile gadget though, as it is powered by… a small propane tank. This British Buddy has made it in our rating because a certain class of automobile fans loves it. It is often bought by travelers and trailer owners.

Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Radiant Heater

trailer heaterThis is a #1 Best Seller in RV Heaters & Furnaces which can be used outdoors with the highest rating among all of the car heating devices featured in this review. Its rating is 4.6 out of 5 stars! This gadget is valued for its power: the miniscule thing can heat up an area of several cubic ft within a couple of minutes. 91% of the customers are satisfied with it, which is a very high indicator. Mr. Heater can be used in your garage. Or check our best propane garage heater review.

Tim writes that “I purchased the LITTLE BUDDY heater to aid in the early morning to warm up my car. The auto shut off feature is EXCELLENT, it shuts off instantly if it is knocked over or bumped too hard. I was concerned about carbon monoxide levels inside of the closed car so I also bought a CO detector and ran some tests on the heater placed in the car....there were no problems at all after a full 20 minutes of usage time” Read other 2000 customers’ reviews on Amazon.com

By the way, it’s a good thing that it has an automatic shut off system in case it gets turned over or bumped. So if you travel a lot, this is a great option!

Price: ~$84.88 Check the current price

Car Heaters Comparison Chart

Photo Model Type Price
Road Pro portable car heater RoadPro RPSL-581 12V All Season Black Heater and Fan
Portable car heater

~$24.72

the bestselling portable car heater Peak PKCOJ5 12V Heater and Fan/Defroster Portable car heater

from ~$20

tractor and truck car heater

RoadPro RPSL-681 12V Direct Hook-Up Ceramic Heater/Fan

Tractor and truck car heater

~$69.49

trailer heater Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy Indoor-Safe Portable Radiant Heater Trailer heater

~$84.88

What Can a Car Heater Be Replaced With?

As you see, we can’t please you with many quality car heaters, so if you’d like to warm up, buy a car seat warmer. We recommend the most reliable option, the best-selling Wagan IN9438-2 12V with Lumbar Support for ~$16.  It is powered by the 12-volt DC outlet, has a 3-way temperature controller and it heats up fast. Over 1300 customers have already rated it highly.

Car Seat Warmers: photo

It is distinguished by its simplicity, durability and affordable price tag. If you want to treat yourself, there are other complicated options with massage starting at $44. For instance, NEW FIVE STAR for ~$49.99 will not only heat you, but will also gently massage your tired neck, back, hips and buttocks. And with the help of New Five Star FS8801 for ~$44.99 you will be able to enjoy a real shiatsu massage and use it not only in the car, but also at home or in the office.

Find the complete guide to the best warmers in our review of the Top-5 Car Seat Warmers.