It is winter once more, and it is so cold outside that you just can’t wait to get inside your precious, warm car. Oh, wait- is it indeed warm? And what about the window shield, can you even see something from the frost and ice? Well, with the best portable car heater you can not only heat up your vehicle, but you can also defrost your windows effortlessly.
This lightweight and compact device will generate and disperse warm air within your car. A significant advantage these devices have is the fact that some of them can go the extra mile and even create cool air when switched to a specific mode.
With so many different units in the store it is hard to know which one will be reliable, and let’s not start with how many devices with a low rating there are. Therefore, our team has created this buying guide full of advice, information, and the portable car heaters reviews.
When Do I Need a Car Heater?
This is a question that has undoubtedly bothered you, but in reality, the answer is super easy. These are the main reasons why you would like to get yourself a car heater or defroster:
- You live in a region with a cold climate – This means that you will have a hard time warming up your car and an additional car heater will be a great solution.
- You have a larger vehicle – From one side it is better to have a smaller vehicle because then the portable car heater will do its job quickly and easily. But then if you have a small car and your primary heater works, why would you need a portable car heater? On the other hand, if you have a large vehicle, you will want all the power you can get to warm it up more quickly. For readers with larger cars, we would recommend diesel heaters.
- You spend many hours driving – If your work requires many hours of traveling- taxi driver, for example, you surely need this kind of heating gadgets.
- Your primary car heater is damaged – If that is the problem, you will see how expensive it could be to fix your heating system. Sometimes, people prefer to buy a portable car heater until they can pay for the repair of their car. Some portable heaters are really, and at the same time cheap, so they are an excellent option for situations like this one.
- You want to defrost your windshield easily – Since most portable car heaters can not only warm up the air in your car but can also defrost your windows, they are something you just need to have. If you live in a cold area and a frozen windshield is something you are not unfamiliar with, a portable car heater that can work as a defroster would be a reasonable choice.
Advantages of Using a Portable Car Heater
If you think about getting a portable car heater, there is a huge possibility that your primary car heater is damaged. If that is the case, you already know that repairing it means money, and depending on your car model and brand we may be talking for a lot of money here. A portable car heater will cost you less as some models are really cheap.
Traveling in winter is not fun at all, especially when you live in an area where there is a lot of snowfall and frost. If you have such a device, it will be easier for you and your car to move through the cold weather.
Many portable car heaters will not only warm up the air in your car making you feel like home but will also help you defrost your windshield. This means that you will not have to stay out scraping the ice off your car for two hours.
The Importance of Giving Your Car Time to Defrost Before Driving
The importance of giving your car time to defrost before you take off is significant. We all understand how disturbing it is to find your car frozen when you need to go someplace as fast as you can. You are in such a hurry, and you barely scrape anything off, hoping that your car defroster will do the job for you while you drive. However, driving with frozen shields is incredibly dangerous, and you always need to give your car some time to defrost.
Just do it. We know that it is cold outside and you hate your life right now, but the few minutes that you are going to spend scraping your car could save you from disaster.
Providing the safest conditions possible while driving is your responsibility for if something happens you are endangering not only your own but the lives of the people around you as well. When there are ice and snow on your windshield, your visibility is greatly hindered. Just imagine how many accidents happen because of the blind spots every car has. Well, now imagine adding ice and snow to that, it is even more dangerous.
You will increase the hazardous conditions around you if you drive down the highway or other roads with snow and ice coming off your car. What happens if it hits another car? You would be the main reason for an accident without even imagining that something like this is possible. Well, it is, and that is why you need to be very careful when it comes to defrosting. Spend some extra ten minutes and defrost your vehicle correctly.
If you don’t wait enough time for your car to warm up, it is entirely reasonable that your MPG drops between 12 and 20 percent. Many factors contribute to this lessening of fuel efficiency – battery performance, tire pressure, oil viscosity. All these are affected by cold temperatures.
The EPA also recommends to warm-up tour car on freezing days and wait for it to defrost. However, some vehicles have computer-controlled fuel injection, and their engine will pretty much warm up faster when the car is driven.
Best Portable Car Heaters Comparison Chart
30,000 BTU High Output 12 Volt Auxiliary Heater
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Lasko MyHeat Personal Space Heater
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KINGLETING 12-Volt Heated Seat Cushion
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AHOMATE Portable Car Heater
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AHOMATE Auto Electronic Car Heater
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Blue–net Universal Car Truck Fan Heater
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Best Portable Car Heater Reviews – Recommended Picks
These are the most reliable products you could find on the market nowadays. We have not arranged them in any particular order as they are all great. It is up to you to choose which one will be your new acquisition.
1. 30,000 BTU High Output 12 Volt Auxiliary Heater
Eagle Product brings you 30 000 BTU Auxiliary heater that is ideal for heavy vehicles or boats as it is able to heat up large areas efficiently. It is comparatively pricy but with it, comes a well-built powder-coated all-steel case and high-efficiency aluminum core. So it is highly durable.
It is suitable for most vehicles with a 12 Volt lighter plug. The unit doesn‘t come with a thermostat and instead, it has a 3-speed high volume dual blower allowing you to adjust the temperature. It has 3 defrost ducts routing airflow for higher output. This will be helpful not only for heating up the vehicle but also for clearing the side windows, windshield, and backglass from fog and mist making it safer to drive
The unit comes with mounting brackets, installation kit, instruction sheet and the heater itself measuring 16″ X 6 1/2″ X 9″. Bear in mind, the heat is generated from the motor coolant and so heating up the entire vehicle will consume some time in extreme weather. It has a one year warranty.
- Highly durable
- Manage to heat up large areas efficiently.
- One year Warranty
- Takes time to heat up.
- Hefty – 18 lb
2. Lasko MyHeat Personal Space Heater
Lasko has created a compact personal space heater with great features that can be used anywhere with much comfort. It is intended to be used at close range and not for heating up the whole room.
It measures just over 6.1 inches and ready to be used right out of the box. Just plug it into a power outlet. The heater has a ceramic heating element that warms up quickly and a built-in fan to blow the warm air. This heater will allow you to cut energy costs as it consumes only 200 Watts. The exterior of the heater doesn‘t get heated up due to its cool-touch feature which makes it ideal for your kitchen counter or for under your desk.
It also comes with a built-in safety feature that prevents the device from overheating even when left on for an extended period. It is worth noting that it doesn‘t have an automatic switch-off in case you knock over the heater.
- Low power usage
- Convenient power switch
- Portable as it is light and small
- Heating is limited to a confined space
- No tipping automatic safety switch
3. KINGLETING 12-Volt Heated Seat Cushion
This 12-volt heated seat cushion with an intelligent temperature controller is brought to us by Kingleting. The seat gets heated up very quickly within a couple of minutes. Since it uses the cigarette plug, it can warm up 2 seats at the same time as most cigarette plugs have two interfaces.
The cushion is thin and soft as it has an anti-freeze power wiring harness. It doesn‘t slip around either as the underside of the cushion is rubberized giving an excellent grip.
It is very convenient to set the right temperature depending on the weather as it has a broad range of temperature settings – choose from 30 ℃(86℉) to 60 ℃(140℉). The unit also has a timer which is helpful to avoid overheating. Bear in mind, when the timer is set at 00, the timing protection is off. Which means you need to take out the plug to avoid draining the car battery. Further, it is worth noting that the display temperature is in Celsius.
- Easily adjustable temperature
- Timing power-off protection
- Rubberized underside for great grip
- No option to change the display setting from degree Celsius to Fahrenheit
- Too thin to handle high temperature
4. AHOMATE Portable Car Heater
Ahomate brings you a multi-purpose portable car heater. It is a heater that can be used both for heating and cooling enabling you to use it year-round. In the cold season, this heater is suitable for defogging by removing frost and fog from the windshield as it does not mist up. A clear view of the road is thus guaranteed to make it much safer to drive on a foggy day.
One can use this heater as a fan in the summer. It is worth noting that the heater consumes just 150W and will not be able to heat up nor cool the entire car. It is meant to be used in close proximity. The device has a handle and a 360-degree revolving base allowing you to adjust the position of the fan to your preferred angle.
Installation is quite simple. The base can be attached to the already enclosed double-sided adhesive, plugged in the 12 Volt lighter plug and the heater is good to go. The manufacturer recommends that the fuse of the car must reach 15 amps to avoid sudden interruption of the heater.
- Can be used both for heating and cooling
- Low energy consumption
- 360-degree revolving base
- Takes time to heat up
- Heating or cooling is concentrated
5. AHOMATE Auto Electronic Portable Car Heater
Ahomate has created a portable heater that can be used throughout the year by installing both a hot and a cold switch. The hot air is useful for removing the mist vapor from the windshield resulting in a rise in temperature of the car to a certain level. It is not able to heat up large areas as the heat is concentrated. The cold wind can be used as a fan in the warmer season. It also promotes air circulation in the car.
The heater is ideal for defogging as the output of the warm air is confined in and around the heater. It has 180-degree rotating support allowing you to adjust the fan to your preferred angle. The device needs 150 watts only and hence doesn‘t consume a significant amount of energy. It is suitable for all 12 Volt vehicles.
The manufacturer has advised that the fuse of the car should reach 15 amps to prevent sudden interruption to the heater. It comes with a user manual, 2 screws, and a double-sided adhesive making the installation quite convenient.
- Two modes of temperature regulation – hot and cold
- 180-degree revolving base allows adjusting the angle of the fan
- Simple installation
- Heating is limited in and around the heater
- It doesn‘t heat up as quickly as advertised.
6. Blue–net 12-24V 6 Ports Universal Car Truck Fan Heater
Blue-net brings us a compact and well-built air heater, suitable for all vehicles with 12 to 24 Volt lighter plug. It is able to heat up the entire car efficiently and is thus ideal for heavy and light vehicles. It has 6 ports that are helpful not only for warming up but also for removing frost from the windshield, side windows, and backglass as hot air can be spread evenly ensuring safe driving.
Installation can be somewhat tricky for this heater, and the manufacturer highly recommends hiring a professional. The heater needs to hook up with the water tank of the vehicle and the power supply.
The heater is 22cm long and 16.5cm wide. It requires a 16mm inner diameter water hose which does not come in the package. The heater itself doesn‘t have a thermostat or a switch to control or adjust the temperature. The heating temperature depends on the vehicle’s water temperature. This is why, after the heater is installed, you can add your customized duct to adjust the airflow.
- Efficiently heats up the entire vehicle
- Well- built
- It has 6 ports which enable spreading of the heat evenly
- No safety switch
- Cannot adjust the temperature
- It takes time to heat up
7. Shape 12V 800W Car Fan Heater
This well-priced heater is brought to you by Shape. The heater has 4 ports with big outlets for large volumes of air, making it possible to heat up quickly. The single outlet temperature is between 80 to 100-degree Celsius and thus is strong enough to warm up the whole vehicle.
The heater has dual switch control which makes it possible for only two ports to be running in warmer days instead of all 4 ports. The power is 800 Watts, and the unit can be plugged in the 12 Volt lighter plug. This heater works well for defogging the frost from the windshield as the big outlets give out a good volume of heat.
It comes with 4 air supply pipes, 2 brackets, 4 pipe straps, and 2 clamps. The manufacturer has recommended installing aluminum outlet pipes to avoid burning plastic products. It doesn‘t come with a Warranty and is advisable to use insurance while trying for the first time in case of short-circuiting damage.
- Able to heat up quickly with 4 ports and big outlets
- Effective demister
- Doesn‘t consume much energy
- Double switch control
- No Warranty, need to buy insurance against damage due to short circuit
- Limited for light vehicles
Types of Portable Car Heaters
There are three main types of 12-volt portable car heaters. They all have advantages and disadvantages, but it is essential to know what exactly you want to use your portable heater for. Let’s look at them:
Convection portable car heaters
Oil-filed heaters are a part of this convective category. When it comes to cars, recreational vehicles, trucks, and other tightly confined spaces, these are the safest to use.
Convection portable car heaters draw cold air over an electric heating element. They transfer heat into the air around you, which then rises because hot air is not as dense as cold air. This is the reason why cold air then rushes in to fill the void, which in turn rises up and pulls in even more cold air. This cycle is called convection. Therefore, the heaters are referred to as convection ones. These type of heaters work perfectly in vehicles that are sealed up since convection relies on a closed volume of air.
Some convection heaters, however, use heating elements that can pose combustion risks. This is something you need to keep in mind as most oil-filled heaters are thought to be safe, and that is indeed true, but there are always exceptions and risks.
These heaters heat the oil that is sealed inside them, using electricity. Oil-filled heaters don’t actually burn it. The heat from the oil is first transferred to the casing and then to the air circulating the fins. They will take longer to heat your vehicle as they rely on natural convection.
These heaters circulate the heat into the room after they have moved air over a heating element. They will be able to heat your car quickly as they use a fan to move the heated air. Another advantage they have is the fact that they take up less space than convection heaters.
Fan-forced heaters are an excellent option for cold weather as they are specifically designed to blow warm air. A crucial part of their design is the fan, and not the booster as it is with other heater types. Their fans are usually powerful, so they can heat the room quickly and evenly.
However, these products tend to be quite noisy when the fan is on full power. You also need to be careful with them, as they also hold some risks, fire being one of them.
Ceramic fan heaters
Some fan heaters are also ceramic ones so it would be normal to see the term ‘ceramic’ in conjunction with them. This is a safety advantage because ceramic cools faster than metallic heating elements and therefore could reduce a burn risk. Check out our ceramic heater reviews, too!
Radiant Portable Heaters
These heaters also use heating elements. The difference is they do not warm up the air around them. Instead, portable radiant heaters emit infrared radiation. This infrared radiation causes a specific object to warm up when it hits its surface.
For this reason, these heaters are also a great option. They, however, do not actually warm up the air around you but are still great at providing heat in poorly-insulated environments like the one of a car.
Bear in mind that some portable radiant heaters are also dangerous to use in confined spaces. This is due to the combustion risks that their heating elements pose.
Portable Car Heater Buying Guide
When you search for a specific product, there are always some particular features you need to keep in mind, especially with so many products for space heating available on the market nowadays. Let’s look at the main factors you have to consider when searching for a portable car heater:
Factors to Consider When Looking for a Portable Car Heater
This is the first and most important factor to think about. In general, there are three main heating technologies: convection, fan-forced, radiant. You need to know what you are going to use the heater for. The same logic is applied even when it comes to selecting a tent heater – a product which we have also outlined extensively.
Convection heaters typically provide a whole-room, even heating; radiant heaters are great when it comes to small spaces, but they don’t really heat up the air; fan-forced heaters have an internal fan that blows across a heating element. The best way to ensure adequate performance is to select the most appropriate type of heater for your application.
When it comes to heating your car, most people prefer to use fan-forced heaters. They do the job quickly and do not require much space.
Car size and cold climate
If your car is a bigger one, then you are probably in the wrong place. Portable car heaters are suitable mostly for small vehicles. Ensure that your heater is at least 150W and avoid ceramic units. Ceramic is considered to be a “lazy” provider.
If you live in a cold atmosphere and/or your car is indeed significant, but you still want to get a portable car heater, we would recommend that you go for a diesel one. However, you may want to choose a model that is an inline one because the ones that need to sit in your car have too many risks.
The noise a particular product makes while operating is a significant factor. This is mainly true when we talk about car heaters. Look for a product that you won’t even know is working. Always read the product’s description and the reviews other users have written.
The size of the space a heater can cover is essential. The heater wattage rating is what determines this. A good practice of thumb is that a typical 1,500-watt heater will be able to cover rooms as large as 150sq.ft. When it is used as a supplementary source of heat. Usually, a room heater uses 10 watts of heating power so that it could heat each square foot of the space. This, however, does not apply for every model.
This factor applies to almost all the products that require electricity. Locating the most energy-efficient window air conditioners or the most energy-efficient coffee maker is pretty much one and the same thing. Currently, portable electric heaters lack a standard level of efficiency like the EER ratings that mobile AC systems have. Still, features such as energy-saving modes, low wattage, adjustable thermostats, and programmable timers will undoubtedly contribute to the more economical operation.
How Do Car Defrosters Work?
When we talk about cars, it is essential to know what a defroster is and how do car defrosters work? Let’s look at the different defrosters your vehicle has, and the ones that you can get besides.
Primary car defrosters
These are defrosters that utilize the HVAC system of your vehicle. They are also referred to as defoggers since they are designed to clear your windshields. With the primary car defrosters, the HVAC system draws in the fresh air, passes it through the heater core, and then directs the warm air through dashboard vents so that it could hit the side windows and the front windshield. The primary defrosters not only defrost your windows but they also ‘defog’ them by removing condensation from the inner surface. It is possible to accomplish the same moisture removal by physically wiping the condensation away, but this may lead to smudges.
Secondary car defrosters
They do not use your vehicle’s HVAC system and defrost things such as mirrors and rear windshields. Typically, these systems use wire grids and resistive heating to warm up the surface of the class. This way ice is melted effectively, and condensation is removed quickly.
12V car defrosters
Driving with a busted defroster when it is freezing outside is a total nightmare. The worst thing after driving your car in sub-zero temperature is standing out in that same weather, trying to remove the thick layer of ice on your windshield.
If this scenario is something you do not want to experience, you may want to get yourself a 12V defroster or heater. The most common power supplies these devices use are the cigarette lighter sockets. However, since 12V accessory outlets and cigarette lighter sockets are usually fused at 15A or less, it is pretty much impossible to run a very powerful heater from them. That’s why, when using a 12V defroster, expecting to have the same results as the ones you got from your HVAC system is wrong.
Are Portable Car Heaters Safe?
Fire hazards are something that comes to mind after we have decided to use a portable car heater. Combustible materials inside your car are something you should be careful with. You need to consider everything from upholstery that isn’t flame retardant to loose papers. The good thing is that unlike residential space heaters, these devices are designed to be used in tight quarters. However, every car is different, and you need to be super careful.
In general, oil-filled heaters do not create the same type of combustion hazards that you can see with other types of heaters. However, they take longer to warm up and may not be suitable for your needs. If there are any potential hazards in your car, mount the heater a safe distance from them.
Because of the information mentioned above, it makes sense to say that a portable car heater is safe to use. Remember, though, that like with any other thing there are always some risks and you need to be very careful. Always follow the instructions that you are given. If you have not read the guideline, don’t try to install a 12V car heater.
More importantly, stick to what the manufacturer has recommended. If the portable car heater you have bought is only meant for mounting on your car’s dash, don’t try to install it anywhere else. In case your device requires a bracket for proper installation, use brackets, and do not experiment. If you have no idea about the method to install or mount and the specs of a particular product, just don’t try to attach it on your own.
Car Heating Tips
Apparently, our team recommends that you get yourself a high-quality portable car heater. They are, after all, guaranteed to give you comfort and warmth. Still, there are some other methods and tips you could use to feel warmer in your vehicle.
If you are someone that deals with seasonal snow, then you need to have a few blankets waiting for you in your car. This is a must-do for every car owner. If something happens and your car heater stops working, these could save your life…literally.
It will be even better if you buy thermal blankets. Another option could be the winter sleeping bags which are an excellent choice when it comes to battling the cold.
We also recommend you to have some extra sweatshirts, mittens, sweatpants, and thick socks. This is not something we wish you to experience, but if you get stuck in the cold, these will keep you warm and comfy. When you layer up as much as possible, you can preserve body heat.
There are many items on the market now that are affordable and will provide you with momentary warmth when you are in your vehicle. Disposable heating packets, for example, are great for your hands and feet. They are able to give you instant warmth for about one or two hours. All you need to do is follow the directions written on the package. Believe it or not, these come in many sizes, and the smaller ones can even be tuck inside your socks.
Run your vehicle
If for some reason you get stuck in the snow, and you wait for help, remember that turning off the car while waiting is not a good idea. Well, actually it will be best if you turn it off but run it for at least 10 minutes every hour or so. This way the vehicle itself can give you some warmth, and you will keep your battery charged. Also, always check your tailpipe for clogging.
Tinting gives you a layer of insulation so your car will be able to keep the heat during winter. Thanks to this extra insulation, warming your car will not take much longer.
1. Which is the cheapest heater?
It depends. Are you asking for the price or for the running cost because they are two different things? On average, fan heaters, more specifically ceramic ones, are less expensive to purchase. However, they have higher running costs. Oil heaters, on the other hand, are thought to be the cheapest to run. They are, however, only by a narrow margin ahead of panels and convection heaters.
2. Can a car heater be replaced with anything else?
This is also a relative question. It depends on what you are using your portable heater for. If you want to warm up the air in your car faster so that you could feel comfy, then the answer is yes. The best way is to get something like a car seat warmer for example. You can always go for a parking heater, but we suggest you first find out how parking heaters work. We, however, don’t really recommend them as they have many disadvantages.
3. Does the portable car heater run when the vehicle is turned off?
No, it does not. You couldn’t start your vehicle if the heater worked while it is off. Your car battery would be drained off. If you want to heat your car while it’s not running, you could use a top-notch propane heater. Such a device, however, should not be left on when you are away from your vehicle.
4. Are portable car heaters safe?
Yes, they are. Of course, as with any other thing, there are some risks but if you are careful everything will be under control.
5. Do portable car heaters have remote controls?
No, such devices don’t feature remote controls. If your vehicle has an automatic start off function, though, the heater will turn on as soon as your car starts.
6. How much time will a portable car heater warm up my car?
10 to 15 minutes should be enough even for a really cheap heater in case you drive a sedan.
7. Do portable car heaters have a timer?
No, they don’t feature such a thing. The heater stops working the moment you turn off your car.
8. Are portable car heaters suitable for defrosting?
Some of them, yes. Many products can be used for warming up the air in your vehicle and defrosting your windshield.
9. Are portable car heaters expensive?
No, in general, they are not. Still, depending on the type, model, brand, and features, there are different prices.
10. Would it make sense to heat my car with a small space heater?
Since a small space heater is meant to heat up small rooms, it can definitely work for cars considering they are also small spaces. Using a small space heater would totally make sense in a car, especially if you have an HVAC system that’s not working anymore.
However, there are some issues to think about before you use the heater inside your vehicle. You need to make sure the heater is not left unattended inside the car because a fire may occur at any time. Just because some space heaters can be used inside a car, it doesn’t mean you should be careless. Take all safety precautions possible to avoid a potential unwanted situation.
Needless to say, you should consider the fact that space heaters are made to run by using AC power. You will need to plug the heater into an inverter, which will convert the car’s DC power into AC. Usually, a car is able to produce 12V DC, but this can change according to the charge level of the battery and many other factors.
You have successfully arrived at the end of our buying guide to getting the best portable car heater. With so many choices on the market, it may get a bit hard to find a reliable product. For this reason, we wanted to help you by gathering some useful information, helpful tips and the top 7 portable car heater reviews all in one place.
We would be thrilled if you have found our piece helpful. Your friends and family may also find this buying guide intriguing, so don’t forget to share it with them as well. Should there be anything, you would want to tell us, just send us an email or leave us a comment.
We love helping our readers. Therefore, we have a lot of other buying guides devoted to finding the most reliable product. Find some free time and go check them out as well. Thanks for reading, and as always- stay put!
If you have enjoyed our reviews and guide, check out our garage heater reviews, as well!