It’s summertime, and most people can’t wait to get out of the house. At this time, many people like to take road trips and other outings, but not without a cooler full of cold drinks. Today, we are going to look at some electric coolers that can make your summer road trips a lot more enjoyable. 

What Is An Electric Cooler?

An electric cooler is basically an insulated box that is meant to keep food and drinks at an acceptably cool temperature. They are meant to replace traditional “ice chest” coolers, which have a number of well-known disadvantages. How does it work? Well, there’s some interesting science behind these devices. Instead of using a refrigerant and a compressor like a traditional fridge, an electric cooler works by taking advantage of the Peltier effect. 

According to the Peltier effect, heat is either absorbed and emitted when an electric current passes between a junction of two conductive materials. In other words, they jump the current across two materials, and this results in a movement of heat. By manipulating this movement, hot or cold temperatures can be produced. 

What Are My Options For Portable Refrigeration

You basically have four options for on-the-go refrigeration. These options are:

  • An ice chest
  • checkA portable refrigerator
  • checkAn electric cooler
  • checkA swamp cooler

An ice chest is a traditional choice, but it doesn’t take long for the ice to melt, waterlogging any food that might be present. This means you can only store items that are fully sealed in waterproof packaging. Also, the ice itself takes up way too much room, reducing the amount of food and drink you can store.We have already talked about electric coolers. A portable refrigerator differs from an electric cooler in that it has a compressor and a refrigerant substance, meaning that it works just like your refrigerator at home. These things are great, but they are also much more expensive than an electric cooler. A swamp cooler is a type of improvised cooling device that has been known since ancient times. By moving air over a wet medium, the temperature of the air can be reduced by 20-30 degrees. Although this type of cooler doesn’t get very cold, it is very power-efficient. 

What Should I Look For In A 12 Volt Electric Cooler?

First, you should look for a size that fits your needs. If you usually travel alone, you don’t need a particularly large cooler. Then again, if you plan to be gone for a long time, a large cooler might be just the thing for a solo traveler. You should also look at the plugins. Make sure that this thing has the kind of plugins that you need. In the case of a 12-volt cooler, it will usually be a cigarette lighter plug. A standard AC plug presents a problem for mobile use since it will require either an inverter or a gas-powered generator.Speaking of which, look for a model that has an automatic low-battery cutoff. Since this thing is running off your vehicle battery, you need to be careful that you don’t drain your battery and leave yourself stranded. Many coolers are made to cut off when they sense that the battery power has become too low.Take a look at the general durability level of the cooler as well. This is a device that often needs to be loaded and unloaded in a hurry, so you don’t want it to be fragile in the least. Besides, thicker walls make for better insulation anyway. 

What Kind Of Summer Outings Are Best-Suited For This Type Of Cooler?

Mostly, these coolers are suited for outings where you will not be straying too far from the vehicle. For instance, a camping trip in an RV would be an ideal situation for this cooler. By contrast, a more primitive camping trip would not be well-suited for a cooler of this type.

Here is a closer look at the Top 5 Best 12 Volt Coolers/Refrigerators

1. Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer – 48 Quart (45 Liter)

Pros

  • Very large
  • Does a lot with a little mechanism
  • Tough handle and wheels
  • Well sealed

Cons

  • Kind of expensive
  • Longevity concerns
  • No warranty

This is one of the larger coolers on our list, so don’t buy this for a solo trip. The Knox electric cooler can hold up to 60 cans or 6 2-liter bottles and 15 cans. It has two power cords so that you can run this cooler from AC or DC power, and both cords fold up neatly into a little trapdoor. It is worth noting that the cooling device itself is very small. Considering how much liquid can be kept cold in this thing, such a small mechanism must be very efficient. We also like the thick rubber coating on the wheels, which make it able to grip any surface for easy steering and longevity. This thing has a good strong carry handle and is made so that the lid cannot be opened while the handle is extended. This means that it is not possible for the Knox cooler to pop open as you pull it behind you. Though most reviews for this product have been positive, there is a negative trend that can be observed. Those who have complained about this product have often said that it will work fine at first before mysteriously dying. This flaw is further compounded by the lack of any kind of warranty. 

2. Koolatron 29 qt. Voyager Cooler

Pros

  • Convenient size and shape
  • Large enough for most people’s needs
  • Trusted brand with a long history
  • Toughly made and resistant to the elements

Cons

  • Not large enough for an entire family
  • 12-volt plug only
  • Cord is very short

This model is marketed as a boat cooler, and with good cause. The whole thing is thickly made, completely waterproof, and operates on a 12-volt plug. Koolatron has a significant advantage over its competitors in the fact that they have been making these types of coolers since 1983. This makes them one of the more trusted named for a cooler of this type.Like most of the products on our list, this one doubles as a warmer. This is great because it allows you to store the snacks cold and then heat them using the same device. As we explained earlier, the Peltier effect can be used to provide both cooling and heat. This one is a little larger than it might appear since it can hold up to 48 cans. Most of its size is vertical rather than horizontal, which makes it a perfect fit for a passenger seat or a floorboard area. 

3. Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric Cooler

Pros

  • Company with a good name
  • Ergonomic for easier carrying
  • Runs very quiet
  • 8-foot power cord

Cons

  • DC plug only
  • Pretty expensive for its small size
  • No separate lid latch

At only 26 quarts, this is one of the smaller coolers on our list. However, it is made by an old and respected company and has many appealing features. In fairness, we should begin by saying that this cooler is a little on the expensive side. It won’t break the bank, but it might be a little more than you want to spend on a cooler.An 8-foot power cord gives this product an edge in the convenience department, and its ergonomic design helps it to hug your side for easier carrying. Coolers that consist of a square box tend to be a little awkward, and this cooler was clearly designed to get away from that little flaw. The design of this thing is highly attractive and space-age in its appearance. Its vertical design allows you to make maximum use of limited vehicle space. You can only use a 12-volt plug with this model, but this isn’t a real downside for a relatively small cooler like this one.

4. Wagan EL6224 24 Liter Electric Car Cooler and Warmer

Pros

  • Simple and stripped-down
  • Dual function with a wide range
  • Quite inexpensive
  • Just the right size for one or two people

Cons

  • Too small for more than two people
  • Lid has an annoying “lip” that gets in the way
  • Switch is kind of hard to reach
  • Short cord, DC only

This is the smallest cooler we will examine today, but it may very well be the best value. This cooler is the cheapest one on our list, and is meant for those whose needs are not particularly large. It can hold up to 27 cans or 6 2-liter bottles, so it isn’t ridiculously small. Like all thermoelectric heaters, it functions as a warmer with only the flick of a switch. It’s easy to like a multifunctional product, and this is no exception. This cooler really stands out in terms of the wide temperature range that it can achieve. When set to cool, the Wagan can reduce the temperature inside the box by 36 degrees (meaning that the inside of the cooler will be 36 degrees colder than the air outside). When set to heat, this thing can get up to 140 degrees. This means that you can go from refrigerating to cooking with just one switch.As far as downsides are concerned, I can only find a few. First, the lid has an outer lip that can make it hard to remove larger items from the cooler. Also, the switch is kind of hard to reach unless you are using both hands. This could be a slight problem for those who are driving along. Finally, a short cord that only connects to a 12-volt plug is another slight concern.

5. SUAOKI 32 Quart /30L Electric Freezer and Warmer

Pros

  • Good warranty
  • Easy to haul
  • Convenient shape
  • Can use DC or AC power

Cons

  • Requires extra part to use AC power
  • Awkward to carry by hand if the carry handle ever breaks
  • Switch is not protected from water

This one looks a little like a piece of luggage, and there isn’t really anything wrong with that. The cooler is thin and tall, making it perfect for those who aren’t driving large vehicles. This one scores some real points in the portability department because of its long carry handle and large, robust wheels. These wheels consist only of two solid pieces, so they can be trusted to hold up pretty well. The carry handle makes it so that you never have to bend down when moving this cooler. If you have health issues that prevent you from lifting heavy objects, this one should be a fairly good choice. This cooler can run on DC power or AC power, but you will need to buy an extra plug if you want to have both options on the table. Best of all, this one comes with a 30-day money back guarantee and a one-year warranty.

Conclusion

Overall, this is a difficult choice. All of these devices operate on the same basic principles and all are well-made. However, we have decided to give the win to the Igloo cooler for several reasons. The first reason has to do with pricing. The Igloo offers just enough space for the average user. It does this while still maintaining a reasonable price point.The size of this cooler is perfect for small groups and much less awkward to carry than the other coolers on our list. In the end, the only downside to this cooler remains the fact that it is somewhat expensive.

If you’re looking for a non electric cooler that will last you for days than check out our comparison between the RTIC cooler an Yeti Cooler.

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