Best Portable Car Heaters: How to Keep It Warm in Your Car in Winter

Dr.Anatom  |  Updated 10/04/2018
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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

RoadPro RPSL-581
RoadPro RPSL-581
✔ Uses One 20 Amp Blade Fuse
✔ 180 Watts Power Rating and 15 Amp Current Draw
✔ 6 foot, 10-gauge power cord

It 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.

star What do buyers say? star

«A Very nice unit. This works well. I use it in the back seat of my sedan to give instant heat before the car warms up. Warms a small car in 8 minutesin 35 degree weather to 72 degrees. If you need supplemental heat in your car, plus you have a tight budget, this is the heater for you ».

«One of the least expensive heaters. I needed something to defrost my windows in the winter. It will work great as a defroster. It has 2 Heat speed Settings and a Fan Setting. After having the heater on one spot for about 10-15 minutes it warms up the windshield enough to where I can safely drive».

Price: ~$24.35 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 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~$17.25 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

Big Electric Car Heater: photoThis 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 ~$60.14 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 - $108.94 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

Mr. Heater Buddy F232000This 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

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!

star Excerpts from buyers’ reviews star

«It was nice having this heater during my last hunt. Great heater and easy enough to use.I was really happy about the safety features and with the casing. I would suggest getting the adapter and using a big propane tank if you think you will need it most of the night. You use a lot of propane - a 1lb. propane tank lasted me about 4-5 hours on low setting».

«I had to use it 2 out of the 4 nights and it sure heated up our tent fast. (Coleman 10' x 14' cabin tent). It warmed the tent nicely each morning. This allowed me to get dressed in a warm tent without feeling rushed to beat the cold».

Price: ~$68.99 Check the current price

Car Heaters Comparison Chart

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


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

from ~$17.25

RoadPro RPSL-681 12V Direct Hook-Up Ceramic Heater/Fan
Big Electric Car Heater min: photo

Tractor and truck car heater


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


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 ~$15.23. 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: photoIt 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 ~$40.99 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 ~$36.99 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.

Add comment
UsUs 2018-05-04 19:28
I used a 12V heater, he heated the car. But there was an unpleasant smell from the heater.
raymond 2017-11-18 12:33
for best result of your car heater where can you connect the wire?
Bam 2017-09-27 08:02
I requested for it for my lavatory other people used it there but instruction manual says never to. Also it claims not to make use of in GFCI outlets which are in my bathroom. I need to know why these limits or if I could ignore them.
Dr.Anatom 2017-09-05 09:06

I agree about Buddy. I had several cheap heaters for cars, all them came into disrepute soon enough. And I use this device not only in my car, but also in the garage if I need to.

Dr.Anatom 2017-09-04 22:07

Hey! I’m using propane Mr. Heater Buddy and so far I’m happy with it. I only do not risk using it while driving, in all other cases it copes well enough. If you are on a long road trip, stock some small propane tanks to save time finding them. I like the fact that that unlike my old electric car heater Buddy is truly portable and mobile, I dislike extra wires in the car. What is just as important, it has an automatic shut off, meaning that the device will turn off if the level of oxygen inside t

Dr.Anatom 2017-09-04 19:52

Are there any tested heaters for cars, other than the ones reviewed? It is often very cold in my truck in winter, so I’m thinking about this issue well in advance.

Dr.Anatom 2017-09-03 17:33

It is not clear which device you have. If it is a portable 12v heater for car, then they are often not powerful enough to quickly heat the car. Larger 12v heaters are plugged straight into the battery, consume more energy and consequently emit more heat. I’m thinking of buying one for myself.

Dr.Anatom 2017-09-03 12:11

I bought an electric car heater, but it does not emit enough heat, what could be the issue?

Dr.Anatom 2017-09-02 16:43

When I read other car heaters reviews, I learned that you’d better use propane ones to heat the car in the morning or during a stop and not on the move. Hope this will be useful.

Dr.Anatom 2017-09-01 13:23

I’ve been using a regular 12v heater for car, similar to the ones covered in the article. Use them like any other electronic device: do not let water inside, turn it off when you don’t use it to avoid overheating. Hot air in the cabin isn’t too pleasant as well. If you see that the wire is failing, do not use the heater before repairing it.

Dr.Anatom 2017-09-01 10:56

What are the safety rules when using car heaters? I’d like to make sure that they are not dangerous before buying one.

Sinestro 2016-12-16 15:22

There's enough space, so the size isn't a problem) Thanks, I'll think about it.

Sinestro 2016-12-16 15:10

If you are choosing exactly between portable heaters for cars, you won't find Mr.Heater any more (I tried it already). If there's enough place in the car, then what's the problem? If garage is small it heats it easily. Of course, if the space in the cabin is small, it will be cramped, and excess capacity, so better take a bit smaller one, they are not all of a bad quality, and check the reviews.

Sinestro 2016-12-16 10:09

I tried many various portable car heaters: the quality is different. This model similar to the first one in the article is no better than built-in heating. What will you say about the large models, maybe somebody tried the last ones? It would have been great to a possibility to take it with me also for heating the garage (mine is not the biggest).

Sinestro 2016-12-12 10:06

It's of course possible, but to achieve the same result as at least Mr.Heater will be possible only with the help of few car heaters. You can calculate whether it's more profitable this way, but, for a powerful heating it's better to choose a bigger option.

Sinestro 2016-12-09 15:11

Is there any sense in buying a low-power car heater for a track? Or it won't heat at all?

Sinestro 2016-11-17 22:32

In the cold winter only electric car heater can save you. It is heating the cabin much faster than a built-in one. But then I turn it off immediately, as the heater is enough.