Best Electric Coolers Reviewed and Rated
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 standard with DC attachments, they are more portable than ever.
Our Top 3 Picks
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.
10 Best Electric Coolers
1. 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 whomever 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
2. Koolatron P75 36-Quart
The cooler can be used in either position, allowing you to use it as a fridge or a chest. There are many added benefits to this small feature, the biggest being how it will be used on a particular day.
Features and Specifications
Cools to 40F and warms to 135F
Shelf included for storage
Buyers will find that the midrange price of this model is very friendly for the features it offers. With only one moving part it remains the most durable cooler on the list and will last for years.
Koolatron hit the mark with this cooler, and almost took the #1 spot. With the right size and a lot of good features, this turns out to be one of the best high end coolers you can purchase.
- The fan motor is the only moving part
- 36 quart capacity is big but not too big
- Doesn’t come with an AC adapter
3. Coleman PowerChill
With 40 quarts to spare, customers can load 44 drinks plus snacks into it. This is one of the largest coolers on the market and almost touches on mini-fridge territory.
Features and Specifications
Plugs into the cigarette lighter
Adjustable door can be opened on the left or right
There are a couple of college students that have converted this into a mini fridge in their dorms. With a midrange price, it fits the needs of several customers.
It’s surprising that the price is so low for this cooler, which is probably why it’s so high on the list. Buyers won’t get much better than this at the current price.
- Chills strong and fast to 40 F
- Durable and has a ton of space
- Bigger than most coolers
4. Igloo Real Tree
The difference between using two shoulder straps with a backpack 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 a backpack/cooler will find it is a safe buy.
The idea that coolers have to be bulky boxes is a thing of the past. A backpack 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
5. Knox 48
With the ability to both chill and heat, there are a lot of extra things you can place in the cooler compared to a normal one. And the heating function isn’t weak at all, with the ability to go all the way up to 130F.
Features and Specifications
Chills to 40 degrees and heats to 130 degrees
Built in AC and DC adapter
For the included features, the value of this model is incredible. At only a midrange price you can get an all in one cooling and heating solution for any trip.
Coolers with adequate heating functions are hard to find, so the Knox model is a very good deal. Buyers can go in confident knowing they will get everything they need in one package.
- Fairly large cooler
- Heats up and cools down rapidly
- Doesn’t get as cool as stated in the features
6. Koolatron 26 qt.
There are zippered pockets on the inside and outside of the bag, so customers will have room for everything. Even the outside cell phone pockets are roomy and made to fit modern smartphones.
Features and Specifications
Cools to 30F
26 quart capacity
Buyers can expect to spend at about the midrange price when it comes to this Koolatron model. As long as they count in the separate AC adapter, then the value is fine for most users.
Koolatron is on the list again for a reason, and they are a company you can count on to make quality coolers. Whether you’re doing serious or light traveling, this model will get the job done.
- Only 8 pounds
- Soft mesh pockets
- Fan is a bit noisy
7. 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
8. Koolatron P25 26
The cooler comes with a cigarette lighter adapter, standard in all units. If you have an AC outlet nearby there is an optional adapter that uses 110V.
Features and Specifications
Cord storage compartment and flip locking handle
Cools down to 40F
This is the first midrange priced cooler on the list, and even without the ac adapter included it is a good deal. Buyers just need to account for the extra cost of the AC adapter if they plan on purchasing the unit as is.
Koolatron made a really good model with excellent cooling features. Even without the AC adapter included it will turn out to be a bargain buy for a lot of people.
- Good cooling temperature with lots of space
- Only weighs 12 pounds
- AC adapter is sold separately
Hard sided coolers offer protection, but shouldn’t be considered the best protection by default. This bag offers great protection with its padded build while also being several times lighter than typical hard coolers.
Features and Specifications
Sealed PEVA liner with leak-proof protection
Attached steel bottle opener and key clip
The price almost reaches midrange territory, yet still manages to be low cost for the average consumer. Since it is made from soft materials there is value in using this beyond its intended purposes.
Don’t get turned off by the soft materials used, as this turns out to be a lightweight bag with a lot of durability. Creative buyers will find some great uses for it over the course of a summer.
- Holds 16 cans
- Comes in camo or blue colors
- Doesn’t have a shoulder strap
10. Igloo Sportsman
Purchasing a lot of these makes sense since they can be stacked on top of one another. For camps that travel in large groups or even scouts, this is the perfect addition to their storage needs to keep things organized.
Features and Specifications
Swing up bail handle
The price is low, and most of the buyers will be purchasing a lot of these at once. The more you purchase, the better the value becomes over the years.
Trying to find a stackable cooler within a good price range is not hard if you end up picking the Igloo Sportsman Cooler. The price is fantastic, and it holds great value when bought in bulk.
- Lid can be reversed to tray and cup holder
- Stackable with dimensions of 14x10x9
- Only one color option
Criteria For Evaluation
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 Igloo, Koolatron and Coleman.
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 it 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 was 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.
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 with our criteria. Igloo and Coleman were obvious choices, and were always ahead on the list. Branding is based off of 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 it. 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, always 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 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.
What Is An Ideal Size?
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.
How Effective Is The Warming Function?
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.
Do All The Coolers Come With Adapters?
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.
What’s The Difference Between A Backpack And Regular Cooler?
There are backpack 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 a desired temperature. Another added benefit of a backpack cooler is using it to transport medicine. With the purchase of a cheap lock, an electronic backpack 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.
Do All Coolers Come With USB Ports?
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.
Can You Use Electric Coolers As Permanent Solutions?
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 as 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.
What Are The Different Type Of Coolers?
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.
Is There An Optimal Temperature To Aim For?
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.
Where Does The Cooler Plug In?
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.
How Efficient Are Electronic Coolers?
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.
Do You Need Ice With An Electric Cooler?
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 the space.
Can 12 Volt Coolers Damage Your Battery?
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 cars 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 into a non-running vehicle and you won’t suffer any damage to your battery.
Without Power How Long Will The Unit Stay Cooled?
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.
Will It Fit In Enclosed Spaces?
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.
How To Make The Best Decision
Now that warming functions have been introduced to coolers, it is vital you 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.