Best Electric Coolers Reviewed for Durability & Quality
Coolers have come a long way over the years, with the size, functions and overall look of them changing dramatically. Now that most electric coolers come with DC attachments, they are more portable than ever (you may also like these coolers).
- ARB 10800782 Fridge Freezer
- Cooluli Electric Cooler
- Easy to transport
- Dometic CFX-35US Electric Cooler
- AC and DC cords included
Igloo is the most recognizable name, but Koolatron has made some noise for the past few years. They may very well be the company to look out for, and with their latest models sporting warming functions they may even change the industry.
Maintenance and Cleaning Tips
Treat an electronic cooler like you would a refrigerator, keeping it clean so that mold doesn’t grow. Getting a bad smell out of an unmaintained cooler can be a pain, so always use warm soap and water after a long use on a trip.
Now that warming functions have been introduced to coolers, it is vital to consider if that is an important feature to have. And remember that not all electronic coolers come with AC adapters, so a separate purchase may be necessary. Usually, they only cost a few dollars, but research is the key here.
10 Best Electric Coolers
1. ARB 10800782 Fridge Freezer
The cooler can be used at home with a 120-Volt AC operation or in your vehicle with the 12/24-Volt DC operation. This 82-quart model maintains sub-freezing temperatures when the outdoor thermometer reads 90° F. It draws only 1.35 amps/hour from a 12-Volt power source.
It is compatible with a generator or solar panel. The lid and basket are fully removable for easy cleaning and access. Ventilation grills allow operation in confined cargo areas.
Reasons for Being Selected #1
The list of features is almost too numerous to count. The cabinet shell is powder coated steel that provides excellent corrosion resistance. Fixed carry handles are also made of recessed powdered coated steel.
The integrated battery protection system has a convenient on/off indicator. Large bottles fit in the deep storage capacity. The forward facing thermostat is user-friendly. The rounded corners and edges protect vehicle upholstery.
Cost and Value
This item is indeed a refrigerator-freezer. After buying one, you will never find a water-logged lunch due to shifting ice. Cold drinks will always be on hand in the summer months. A truck driver who purchased the ARB cooler stated it was pricey, but saved him at least $150 per week by carrying his food.
Internal LED cabinet light
Interior drain plug
Separate dairy/fruit compartments
Unique hinge has a quick release mechanism
The freezer is meant to keep foods frozen, not freeze them
2. Cooluli Electric Cooler
The Cooluli cooler is a thermoelectric cooler as well as a food warmer. It works by using electric energy to transfer heat from one side to another. Because this system of cooling works without refrigerants, the Cooluli cooler/warmer is also proudly environmentally friendly.
Features & Specifications
Includes AC, DC and USB power cords
The Cooluli is one of the more affordable options on our list. Its sleek portability and the low price tag makes it a cost-friendly way to cool or warm your food.
The Cooluli cooler is a fantastic option for people wanting a small, space-saving cooler. It’s six can capacity may not be the best for people looking for a large capacity cooler but it would work great in many situations such as dorm rooms or the baby’s nursery.
Easy to move around
Convenient for small spaces
Won’t cool as much if ambient temperature is high
3. Dometic CFX-35US
Dometic fully understands that customers will have different needs for this cooler. They offer it in 26, 35, 38, 46, 61 and 94.5 liters.
Features and Specifications
Refrigerate or Freeze
Electronic thermostat with LED display
Expensive and heavy, buyers will have to open their wallet wide if they want this cooler. All versions are worth it for what they do, and all versions come with everything you need to get started.
This is one of the most advanced coolers on the list so the price will be high by default. If it falls even close to your desired range, then buying it should be second nature.
- USB ports for charging smaller devices
- Both AC and DC cords are included
4. Dometic CFX95DZW
The CFX-35US model is a compressor fridge and freezer. It keeps drinks and food chilled when traveling on the road. The cooler features a removable wire basket that has a divider, steel hinges, reinforced corners and digital temperature displays.
The cooler has drop-down handles, hinges made of heavy-duty steel stainless steel, and latches. Memory in the system maintains preset temperatures when the system is off. It runs on 120-volt AC and 12-Volt and 24-Volt DC power sources.
The cooling performance is fantastic at high external temperatures. It withstands harsh conditions and provides exceptionally efficient cooling performance. Temperatures can be set from 50° F to -8° F.
It can hold 106 12-ounce cans. The cooler is suitable for solar operation. Weatherproof construction includes a Waco compressor that is hermetically sealed. An easy-to-use soft touch control panel utilizes an internal temperature sensor to guarantee food stays at the desired temperature.
Cost and Value
It is easy to clean and provides practical storage. Power cords for AC and DC are included. The Dual-Zone feature allows freezing and refrigeration simultaneously. The money saved by taking food on a trip pays for the cooler in no time.
Using this cooler when camping out of vehicles is a game changer. No messy ice from food packages that leak. You can be in the middle of the desert and have cold beverages and ice cream.
LED electronic display thermometer
Folding carry handles save space
Lid is detachable and reversible
A USB port can charge small devices
Using a CB radio can interfere with the microprocessor system.
5. Igloo Real Tree
The difference between using two shoulder straps with this sort of cooler and using a single handle with a regular cooler is night and day. Carrying your goods becomes effortless, and all without compromising space.
Features and Specifications
Holds up to 18 cans
Adjustable padded straps
The price is low and there are other uses beyond using it as a cooler. Buyers that need an ultraportable cooler will find it is a safe buy.
The idea that coolers have to be bulky boxes is a thing of the past. A bag like this that functions like a cooler is a great choice if you want to pack light.
- The exterior pockets are very roomy
- Full insulation functions just like a regular cooler
- Not as sturdy as other competing coolers
6. Koolatron P27 Voyager
The Koolatron P27 Voyager offers the buyer the flexibility of using it in a horizontal position (like a chest) or a vertical position (like a refrigerator).
Features & Specifications
Comes with 12V plug-in for use in a vehicle
Brushless motor for even temperature distribution
This Koolatron cooler is mid-range in terms of price but it offers a large amount of space for the traveler which means less money spent on road trip food and drinks.
The Koolatron P27 Voyager, with its 29-quart capacity, is a great option for families who are on the road often. It comes with the 12V plug for use in the vehicle and will save you money by eliminating the need for expensive restaurant stops on your trip.
Light in weight
Little bit noisy
7. Knox Gear 34 Quart Electric Cooler/Warmer
From freezing arctic temperatures in the winter or brisk autumn days, beverages and food are appropriately heated when you are on the road. The interior heats to 130° F and actively maintains the temperature to keep prepared foods ready to eat when you are. It is the ideal companion for road trips, camping, ski trips, or tailgating.
Whether you enjoy mild springs or suffer blistering summers, the cooler will chill and preserve beverages and food when you are on the go. The cold setting falls to a chilly 40° F and maintains that temperature to keep sandwiches, salads, and beverages cool and ready to enjoy. It is the perfect refrigeration system for bar-be-ques, fishing excursions, days at the beach, or picnics.
The cooler has both AC and DC cords that make it usable at home or while traveling. Its compact design makes it easy to be carried by one person. The locking mechanism keeps a tight seal on the lid that maintains the internal temperature and protects food from spills. Swing the hand forward to open and back to lock.
Cost and Value
Everyone’s favorite dish can be packed. The compact cooler has lots of room inside. The savings from buying groceries instead of eating out when traveling makes the cooler a good buy.
Large storage space
Chills to 40° F and warms to 130° F
Can be used to cool or warm drinks and food
It takes a while for the cool temperature setting to be reached
8. Igloo Iceless
They just have to be made correctly, which is why Igloo put a curved back in this design so that it hugs the side of whoever is carrying it. The entire design is a worthwhile change if you’re used to the other uncomfortable hard case options.
Features and Specifications
Comes in 26 or 28-quart sizes
Eight-foot-long power cord
Selling for a high price, even without a heating function this is the most technically sound cooler on the list. Igloo is great to their customers so this purchase is an easy one to make.
Durable and comfortable to carry, Igloo made an Iceless cooler that blows the competition out of the water. No matter which size you get, the value will be incredible.
- The most durable cooler on the list
- Motor is brushless and almost silent
- Heavy lid
9. Wagan (EL6224) 12V Cooler/Warmer
This item can be used as a cooler or warmer. The Wagan Cooler/Warmer cools to a maximum 32° F. It will cool to 36° below the ambient temperature. The maximum warming temperature is 140° F.
Selecting the cold setting will keep the contents cool. It can reach 32° F if the ambient temperature is 68°. Healthy snacks like yogurt and fruit can be packed. This model has an option to keep the contents warm. The hot setting keeps anything inside warm or heats it to a maximum 140° F.
How to Use
To use the cooler/warmer, plug the 12-Volt adapter into the vehicle’s 12-Volt DC outlet. Select the setting with a switch on the back. There is an indicator light that lets you know the setting that has been chosen - hot, cold, or off.
Placement of the device can be on the floor or strapped into a seat with a seat belt. A 7½-foot power cord can reach the back seat, making it accessible to everyone in the vehicle. Pre-chill items before placing them in the cooler for optimum cooling. Doing so helps the unit reach lower temperatures faster. Items inside will stay cool for quite a while after disconnecting.
Cost and Value
The appliance is insulated with polyurethane foam to keep temperatures steady. This warmer/cooler has a 10A fused plug and a built-in fan. Forty watts of power is consumed.
Those who have purchased the product report the temperature settings to be accurate.
They found the appliance to be an upgrade to past coolers. It is among the most reasonably priced food preservers. When researching reviews of this product, there were very few complaints. Comments about the Wagen Cooler/Warmer included - held up admirably, fantastic device.
Heavy-duty handle allows easy transport
Easy to use
It can hold four two-liter bottles of 27 12-ounce cans
Cools or warms contents
An optional AC adapter must be purchased separately
10. Koolatron P-20
The lid is latch-less. It can be opened using one hand. A swinging foldaway handle makes it easy to carry. It is the perfect cooler for on-the-go families. Pack the cooler with snacks for sports events or family trips.
Other features include an interior fan, lighter storage spot, and a unique cord wrap. An AC adapter is available so that the cooler can be plugged into an outlet in a hotel, motel, or in a home.
Food is kept up to 40 degrees colder than the ambient temperature. A heating mode warms to 130° F. The cooler has an 18-quart capacity. It holds twenty-three 12-ounce cans. The cooler has a state-of-the-art cooling system.
Cost and Value
Koolatron has manufactured coolers for more than 20 years. People who purchased the cooler felt it was a good size for practical use needing a cooling function. They are happy with the product and have recommended it to others. There are no puddles of condensation.
Consumers liked the ability to cool items without the fuss and mess of ice. It works as advertised. The cooler sells for about half the price of some other name brand coolers. Food doesn’t have to be purchased a grocery store or restaurant after you reach your destination or along the way.
Compact design is perfect for small cars, SUVs, and minivans
Can be used to cool or warm food and drinks
Unique cord wrap and lighter storage
Quiet fan and motor circulate air evenly
Interior walls slope inward and reduce the inner space
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Electric Coolers
We looked at a lot of important features when ranking the best electronic coolers in the industry. Our top ten list featured a lot of products that were close, even when you count price. The ordering of the list turned out great in the end, with the top three products coming from ARB, Cooluli, and Dometic.
Efficiency was at the top of our list of things to pay attention to when it came to electronic coolers. We based this on how well the coolers on the list handled everyday tasks, most notably how well they handled maximum capacity. Coolers that advertised great temperatures but took an hour to reach them were left off of the list.
The best way to test whether a company was being honest about their temperatures was by loading the cooler until only a little room was left. This knocked out a lot of the competitors, shortening our list early from the start. Features were a huge thing with the coolers, with USB powered units going to the top.
Models with warming features also went to the top of the list and were highly regarded even before we got to that portion. Any modern feature that was hard to find on other models was considered a pro, even if it wasn’t widely used.
Electronic coolers don’t always get a lot of updates year to year, so when the innovative ones come out of the bunch they really knock it out of the park. The best part about the models with USB is that they provide unlimited functionality that far extends the normal use of the product.
Power options turned out to be the third most important thing for us, with most of the products on the list opting for a 12v adapter. We gave points for products that included multiple adapters but didn’t take away points for models that didn’t provide the converters out of the box.
As long as the initial adapter was included, getting access to the converters was no problem at all. If the cord was too short we took points off since it can be a hassle to extend it. Detachable power cords were considered a big deal, and we ranked models with this feature highest.
The hardest thing to rank among all of the coolers on the list was their ability to maintain a steady temperature. We looked at how well models would maintain their best temperature with a -5 degree difference.
The coolers that handled this the best were the ones that could handle drastic changes in the outside temperature without too much of an effect on what was inside. Some of the results were minimal, but the top five had some notable differences that helped reorder the list. When consumers plan to take long trips in hot temperatures, these are going to be the models that perform the best in those conditions.
Adjusting the list based on size was tricky, as we couldn’t show favoritism for a specific size. Everyone has a size they favor, so small, medium or large sizes shouldn’t carry a penalty. When it came to sizes, we instead focused on the design and how well it took advantage of the room it had.
There were small coolers that handled their open space better than large coolers. And there were medium coolers that had more usable space than larger coolers. Exact measurements really made a difference with this criteria, and it cut down on a lot of the large (and some small) choices on the list.
Because of the earlier discussion of how an electronic cooler can hurt the battery of a car that isn’t running, we took special time to look at power usage. Products that took the lowest amount of power while maintaining a good temperature gained instant favor.
These coolers are great on any battery, even on particularly weak vehicles. It also enabled some of the USB enabled models to go further up the list if they handled the power consumption at the same level as the non-USB models. Even with some of the USB models having an active draw, they still came out to a similar power level as the others on the list.
How well the lid sealed is something that we couldn’t ignore, and it may have led to some of the better products being left off of the list. Leaks meant an immediate removal from the list, which was surprising since that meant a lot of good choices were removed immediately.
The remaining coolers also had to show that they didn’t drop too harshly in temperatures when they were opened and closed. A slight temperature drop was expected, but when it was too drastic, that pointed to an issue with sealing. All of this was not only temperature related, and we put focus into how well it closed off smells.
If you are camping with an electric cooler, having the odor of food in the air will invite a lot of unwanted critters. Branding is something that we always include in our criteria. Igloo and Coleman were obvious choices and were always included in the list.
Branding is based on customer service, satisfaction, warranty and the past success of the company. Brands that had a proven track record got the benefit of the doubt if there was a close call in how we were ordering the list. They were safe bets that guaranteed quality, with an easy process to return the product if something went wrong.
The last thing we looked at was heating power, which more or less was the least important criteria. None of the models on the list outputted heat that would be considered beyond ‘warm’, nor were they expected to. We looked at the quality of heat, with a lot of priority going to how long it kept the contents of the cooler warm. Weak heating power didn’t lead to a loss of points, while strong heating power pushed some models a little higher.
Additional Maintenance Tips
If you have already bought a thermoelectric cooler, you probably have an idea of the costs involved. While no one can argue that this is the most expensive equipment you will ever buy, it is safe to assume that once you have bought one, you would want to keep it for as long as you can.
One of the ways you can be guaranteed that your electric cooler will do its work efficiently is to ensure that you follow the maintenance tips we have put together in this article. Even though electric coolers are not meant to last as long as your refrigerator will, maintaining them well will help you extend the time you will be using yours.
Read the Operator Manual
Maintaining your cooler should start with reading the user manual. Very few people can pretend that a user manual is the most interesting document to read. However, discovering that you have voided your warranty because you have not followed the instructions on the operator manual will leave you with a bad taste in the mouth.
Many manufacturers will also require for you to have the original packaging in order to claim your warranty. Also, keep the proof or purchase receipt and warranty card in a place where you can find them. The packaging should also be kept so that you can use it when you are moving the cooler, sending it for repair or claiming your warranty.
Operator manuals are created for an important reason: to give you the instructions on how you should look after your electric cooler. The user manual tells you how to use the product in an efficient manner. It will also help you to deal with common problems; you can troubleshoot without having to wait for endless minutes to get help from a call center.
Install In a Ventilated Location
Your cooler should be stored in an area that is well ventilated. Also, make sure that it is not stored in direct sunlight. If you want to keep food inside this unit, ensure that it cools down sufficiently before you place it inside the cooler. Also, the lid seal should also be cleaned regularly.
Before you start cleaning your cooler ensure that it is unplugged from the power source. As a device used for the storage of food, it is always advisable that you keep it clean all the time on both the exterior and interior. When cleaning the cooler, never do so under running water. If the cooler is cleaned using abrasive cleaning agents or objects that are hard, it could easily be damaged.
Always Operate the Device Safely
Every time before you use the device, ensure that both the plug and power supply cable are dry. Make sure that the cooler is not sitting near heat sources such as heaters, gas oven, and others like that as this could present a risk of overheating.
Do Not Use If Damaged
If you look at the device and notice that it is visibly damaged, do not operate it. If there are any problems with your device, do not attempt to repair it yourself unless you are adequately qualified to do so. If it is improperly repaired, the unit could become a safety hazard.
Know When to Buy another One
As it has already been indicated above, thermoelectric coolers have a planned obsolescence. This is the reason why you would usually be advised to rather get rid of a cooler that has started giving you many problems.
The challenge with attempting to replace parts one by one is that you will just end up buying one part after another without solving the problem. This is the reason why is more important to consider the lifespan of the unit as opposed to just the single parts that constitute it.
Even though these units may a have a limited lifespan overall, you should consider the warranty given when you buy one. The duration of the warranty could be an indication of the confidence the manufacturer has in the product. Stay away from any units that have warranties of less than 90 days. A good thermoelectric cooler should have a warranty of at least one year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What Is An Ideal Size?
A: When you try to size an electric cooler, looking at them in specific size ranges should shorten the list considerably. Small can be considered 7.5-18 quarts and will do the job for ice or drinks. Medium is about 21-36 quarts and can handle drinks, food, and snacks. Large is 45 quarts and up, which is more than enough to handle anything you throw at it. There is no wrong size if you know what it is you’ll be using it for. When in doubt, always go for midsize to large since it will cover more than the bare essentials.
Q: How Effective Is The Warming Function?
A: The heating function in electronic coolers are not meant to fully cook food, so you won’t be able to convert them to portable stovetops. Electronic coolers give off about the same amount of warmth as the warm-low setting on a stove. Some of the better ones can make some eggs for you, but beyond that, it is not meant to be on for long periods of time outputting a lot of heat. You can still depend on it in a pinch, like when hot drinks need to be at a certain temperature for extended periods of time.
Q: Do All The Coolers Come With Adapters?
A: Not all coolers come with adapters, and this can be a troubling aspect if you have never owned one before. Always pay attention to whether the package comes with an adapter or not. This is not for the initial adapter if it is 12 volt, but rather the converter that makes it useful in a regular outlet. Switching from the car to a regular outlet is great when the option is available. And even if the model doesn’t include an adapter, you can purchase a 12-volt car adapter to ac adapter for cheap. Just make sure that the converter is compatible with your current electronic cooler.
Q: What’s The Difference Between A Carrying Bag Type And Regular Cooler?
A: There are pack coolers on the market that are really useful if you need an electric cooler that’s easy to carry. They are often used for carrying drinks and keeping them at the desired temperature. Another added benefit of such a cooler is using it to transport medicine. With the purchase of a cheap lock, an electronic strap bag cooler can be a really big help when traveling. The only downside is the limited space, which can sometimes be smaller than a regular cooler. As an alternative option, it’s also great to pair with larger coolers for the most versatility.
Q: Do All Coolers Come With USB Ports?
A: No. Coolers that come with USB ports are great, and often underrated for how useful they are. There are an unlimited amount of USB devices that could prove useful for regular ports. The obvious use would be to charge tablets, phones and any other device that can handle the power output. With a little creativity, you could even add a USB powered cooktop or fan. The options are unlimited if you look at all of the available electronics that can be powered by it. Your electric cooler could turn into your command center, making it an invaluable tool when you leave the house.
Q: Can You Use Electric Coolers As Permanent Solutions?
A: It’s possible, but not efficient. A cooler won’t get anywhere near as cold as you would want a home freezer. You would also be limited with the size, as even the largest isn’t suitable for a full-time home freezer. Even if you just want to use it in place of a mini-fridge, the advantages are still in favor of the fridge. A mini-fridge cools faster, and many have a small portion dedicated to freezing. They also have better shelving, spacing and overall size. Electric coolers will only work well in a permanent setup for mobile users that are lacking space.
Q: What Are The Different Type Of Coolers?
A: There are two main types of coolers that consumers can choose between. Thermoelectric and Compressor-driven coolers are the industry leading types, with the latter having the more powerful cooling ability. For portability and ease of use, thermoelectric is favored and requires a lot less upkeep. The tradeoff is that you can’t freeze your contents like you can with a compressor-driven cooler. When comparing the two, thermoelectric has a slight advantage when you rack up all of the features. It is also the one that is most likely to have modern features like USB ports.
Q: Is There An Optimal Temperature To Aim For?
A: You want the cooler to at least be able to handle cooling 40 degrees Fahrenheit below the outside temperature. This will keep anything you put in the cooler at a comfortable temperature for a long period of time, even if it isn’t plugged into power. Electronic coolers keep steady temperatures once they are sealed shut, so there are no worries of a drastic drop when you unplug it. Consumers that want it to be colder can always add ice to the cooler to keep a lower consistent temperature while transporting it for long periods of time.
Q: Where Does The Cooler Plug In?
A: Depending on the model, you can plug it into the wall or into a standard car 12-volt outlet. When using it with your car’s 12-volt outlet, it will also work with any type of converter. So if you have it running through a hub or a socket extender, the effect will be the same. The power draw for coolers won’t be that much higher than a regular electronic device, although it tends to idle on the higher side based on the cooler. For obvious reasons you can expect a larger cooler to have a much stronger draw, but nothing that your car or truck battery can’t handle.
Q: How Efficient Are Electronic Coolers?
A: Opinions vary based on what the cooler is used for. If you are expecting to freeze items in it for long periods of time, then you’re going to be disappointed. And if you are getting it primarily for the heating function, then you’re purchasing it for the wrong reasons. Electronic coolers are perfect for keeping anything you want cool for long periods of time. They also make great use of keeping hot food warm until it reaches its destination. When the features of a cooler are properly utilized, it is the most efficient product of its kind on the market.
Q: Do You Need Ice With An Electric Cooler?
A: Ice is optional when using an electric cooler. They were made to do away with the need for ice and the many frustrations it can cause. That doesn’t mean that ice shouldn’t be put into an electric cooler, and if used properly it can enhance the temperature in positive ways. When you need a lower temperature than what can be provided by the cooler, ice is the best way to achieve it. Using ice doesn’t damage the cooler, so it’s a great choice for longer trips providing you have space.
Q: Can 12 Volt Coolers Damage Your Battery?
A: While the car is running, it won’t be an issue. Where you will have to be careful is when you run an electric cooler off a car battery when your vehicle isn’t running. This applies to all 12v products and is not specific to a cooler. Some say a safe bet is 3 hours without the car running, which is assuming the car has a strong battery, to begin with. At some point, you will drain your car’s battery if it is sending all of the juice to the cooler and doesn’t have enough to turn the car over. Be wary of how long you leave any 12v object powered by a non-running vehicle and you won’t suffer any damage to your battery.
Q: Without Power How Long Will The Unit Stay Cooled?
A: If your cooler stays sealed and isn’t opened, then it can last for hours. Just like a refrigerator, the more you open it while it isn’t actively cooling, the more the temperature will drop. Most electric coolers have great sealing elements in place to keep your items fresh. Consumers should also remember that once plugged back in, it will still take some time to reach an optimal temperature. If there are a lot of items in the cooler, getting to the temperature you want can take upwards to half an hour.
Q: Will It Fit In Enclosed Spaces?
A: You can place coolers in enclosed spaces, but it’s important to make sure they have breathing room. Because it is an electronic item, it will give off heat while in operation. This isn’t to say it is a fire hazard and instead points to how easy it is to make the unit work harder to maintain a good temperature. If it is so tight in its area that it has to work double time to stay cool, then you’re burning up energy and the amount of time your contents will stay cool. Outside temperatures affect how well your electric cooler performs.