Holds a Master’s degree in Engineering and is keen on her own home’s climate. Sometimes we think that Carolina owns every single product she writes about – that’s how profound and insightful her reviews always are.
For 8 years, Richard had been working as an HVAC specialist and AC unit installer since his student years. Now, he’s our main consultant on every technical aspect that may arise during our tests and research.
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Whether you live in a cold country or are planning on traveling to one, it’s important to keep warm when driving for extended periods of time. A portable car heater is an essential tool to have in the car in the winter, but it’s often difficult to find the right one for your particular needs. Not all top-rated portable car heaters are created equal, so it’s important to do some proper research before choosing one.
To make your decision easier, we reviewed the best portable car heaters currently available on the market, looking at numerous important features, including type, voltage, heating capacity, size, weight, and warranty. By reading the in-depth reviews we provided for each model and the buying guide at the end, you can easily determine which is the best portable car heater for your vehicle.
Our editor’s choice, the ROYADVE Portable Car Heater has a three-outlet design that makes it easy to heat and cool your car quickly. This appliance does more than just heat your car in winter, as you can use it as a demister, defogger, to defrost the windows and even to remove snow. It features an adjustable thermostat to control the temperature in the vehicle and we liked that it is very easy to install and use.
The ROYADVE Portable Car Heater is built from high-quality materials and you can expect it to last for years. It’s an excellent option for those who are planning on taking long trips, and since its size is very compact, you won’t even know it’s there most of the time. The three-outlet design of this portable car heater allows you to heat the car in less than a minute, so you don’t have to wait in the cold until the car’s heating system kicks in. Moreover, by choosing to use this portable car heater, you protect the engine from abrasion caused by hypothermia starts.
To use the ROYADVE Portable Car Heater, all you need to do is plug it in the cigarette lighter of your car and then twist the button. Besides heating, the device also comes in handy when it comes to keeping air fresh, removing cigarette smoke, and cooling the car space quickly during summer days. Most of the users who tested and reviewed it mentioned that this is a sturdy little portable car heater that doesn’t take a long time to get used to.
We liked that the ROYADVE Portable Car Heater is a highly versatile portable car heater with a small footprint, which is why we decided to feature it as our editor’s choice. Whether you want to use it as a heater in winter so you can warm up the car quickly while protecting the engine, or in the summer to cool the car in under a minute, the ROYADVE Portable Car Heater is currently the best portable car heater defroster you can find on the market.
What we liked:
Warms the car in under 1 minute
Highly durable thanks to the quality materials used
What could be better:
Doesn't work if the car lighter is charging another device
The Zerostart 2600900 is a lightweight and portable car heater that fits in just about any kind of vehicle. It is easy to install and comes with a long 7 ½ ft cable so you can use it just about anywhere. This is a portable car heater that you can only connect to the mains supply in a home or office and will not run in your car. The Zerostart 2600900 is an excellent choice for passenger use and works great in recreational vehicles. We liked that it is very easy to install, as you can mount in under dash on the floor thanks to the included mounting bracket. The device has multiple safety features, which include an automatic high temperature sensor that allows the car heater to automatically shut down when it reaches a temperature of 158 degrees Fahrenheit. This is to protect the device from overheating, and the sensor will reset automatically and resume heating after cooling down for 15 to 30 minutes.
Another safety feature found in the Zerostart 2600900 is the secondary one-time use thermal safety sensor. This feature turns the heater off automatically when temperatures go over 286 degrees Fahrenheit, but in that situation, the heater will not turn back on and will be no longer usable.
Most of the users who tested and reviewed the Zerostart 2600900 mentioned that this portable car heater generates quite a bit of heat and even though it’s small, it is solidly built and lasts well over the years. It does a good job of defrosting the windows and warming the car up to a comfortable level in a matter of minutes. The Zerostart 2600900 generates 900 Watts of power and is a suitable option for the vast majority of vehicles, ranging from small cars to vans and trucks. While it doesn’t come with any buttons to control of temperature, you can do so by unplugging and replugging the device as needed.
Our budget pick is the Caframo Limited True North Space Heater, which comes with the added advantage of being very easy to slide into spaces. This portable car heater is different from any other models available in the market because it doesn’t use up a lot of vertical space. It is a perfect option for heating up an RV, thanks to the built-in thermostat that allows users to control exactly how much heat they want. The Caframo Limited True North Space Heater comes complete with an antifreeze setting, which comes in handy on colder days.
This portable car heater has a two speed fan setting that ventilates the car on hot days. We like that the exterior of this device has a powder coated finish, which makes it not just nice to look at but also durable at the same time. The Caframo Limited True North Space Heater is built in Canada and comes with a five-year warranty for extra peace of mind.
Users who tested and reviewed the Caframo Limited True North Space Heater mentioned that the compact unit is easy to fit in just about any type of car and they liked that it comes with flexible power settings. Even though the fan is a bit on the loud side, this portable heater is suitable for most types of cars, but also for other purposes, and you can use it in your home or office as well. Other uses may include a boat or greenhouse, as well as other situations where you might need a small device to generate that quickly. The device has multiple safety features that include a resetting temperature switch and a temperature fuse. As such, the portable heater terms of automatically if it detects any kind of overheating. You can select from one of the three heat levels and two fan speeds and you can also control it with an external thermostat.
Sometimes you need a portable heater to focus on providing heating for the back seat area, and this model does an excellent job. The Back Seat Heat Plus is a ceramic portable car heater with fan capabilities and a heating capacity of 1,100 BTU. You will need some tools to install it, including a drill, a Phillips head screwdriver, a crescent wrench, a wire stripper and a wire crimper, so this is something to keep in mind before purchasing this back seat portable car heater. But even though you need a bunch of tools to install this heater, it is actually rather easy to install and use.
The Back Seat Heat Plus is not a replacement for the heater in your vehicle. Instead, its job is to help with recirculating the existent heater of the car and bring the warm air to the back seats as well. This is a vital point to keep in mind, as this is not a primary car heater and won’t work in the absence of the heat provided by the main car heater. It only operates when the engine of the car or truck is running, and is powered by the battery of the vehicle.
You can mount the Back Seat Heat Plus wherever you want, and one of the things we liked best about it is the fact that the outer casing remains cool during use. The air output of this portable car heater is 20° to 30° warmer than the air input. You can mount it low on the floor, on wheel wells or under elevated seats. The unit comes with adjustable temperature control and all you need to do to use it is start the vehicle, turn on the heater, and make sure that the engine runs both the heater and fan.
Many of the users who tested this portable car heater like the fact that it operates in a similar way to a heat pump instead of generating warm air and distributing it in the car with the help of a fan. The Back Seat Heat Plus comes with a two year warranty.
If you’re looking for a portable car heater that you can hookup directly to the vehicle’s battery, the RoadPro RPSL-681 is a perfect choice. Recommended for tractors and trucks, this portable car heater is also suitable for use in an SUV, but it would be too complicated for a smaller size vehicle such as hatchbacks or sedans. You can install this heater in a hanging position, which means that you shouldn’t place it inside the vehicle. The RoadPro RPSL-681 comes with everything you need for installation, but it also requires a 30 Amp in-line fuse that is not included.
Many of the users who tested and reviewed the RoadPro RPSL-681 mentioned that it does a good job at heating the space inside a truck, and even though sometimes the heat output is not as high as you would expect, the fact that you can hook up this portable car heater to the battery of your vehicle makes it an excellent choice for those who don’t have other options for different styles of heaters.
The RoadPro RPSL-681 has multiple built-in controls so you can adjust the temperature and you can also switch directly from heat and cool settings as needed. While this portable car heater blows hot air, is not expected to generate impressive warmth during very cold days. We like that that heater comes with extra-long cables, so you can move it around to different spots in the vehicle. It also gets your car warm when parked, and most users mentioned that they could see a difference in the temperature of the car even for vehicles without proper insulation.
The best way to use The RoadPro RPSL-681 is as a supplement to the main heater of the vehicle or as a cooling device during summer days. This portable car heater comes with a five year limited warranty for extra peace of mind.
The Mr. Heater F242010 MH4GC is a suitable choice for those who are looking for a portable heater to fit into their golf cart. It comes with a handy cup holder adapter that allows you to use a 1 pound propane tank and also prevents the device from tipping over. This portable heater for golf carts has a 5.5 hours of runtime and an output of 4000 BTUs. It comes with multiple safety features, including an oxygen depletion system and automatic turn off in the event it tips over.
We liked the economic carrying handle that makes this device very easy to maneuver, as well as the wind resistant protective screen that will keep it in function no matter the weather. Besides using the Mr. Heater F242010 MH4GC in a golf cart, you can also use it to keep the inside of a tractor or another vehicle where you don’t sit in a closed space. Users review the mentions that even though the heater is a little bigger than you might expect for something designed to be used in golf carts, it is stable in the cup holder. This is an essential accessory for avid golfers who live in climates with colder temperatures.
The unit has a one-button push ignition/on function for easy use and connects directly to a 1.lb disposable cylinder that will last approximately five hours of continuous use. It also has an oxygen depletion sensor for extra safety. To like the device, all you have to do is push and hold the ignition button. The device comes has an integrated Piezo mechanism that will take care of the rest. When you purchase the Mr. Heater F242010 MH4GC is a keep in mind that it doesn’t come with a propane tank, and you will need to purchase that separately. The heat type of this portable heater is radiant and you can only use it in outdoor settings, as it is not safe for indoor use.
The Camco 57341 Olympian Wave-6 is a reliable and durable portable heater that is suitable for use in RVs and other larger spaces. It has a heating capacity of up to 6000 BTUs and it uses propane gas to generate heat. You can also adjust it to release a lower amount of heat as low as 3000 BTUs, which means that you can use it as a secondary heat source as needed.
We liked that this machine is very easy to use and that it only uses small amounts of propane at the time to heat your space in an efficient manner. The Camco 57341 Olympian Wave-6 has a shut off valve that prevents accidental fuel discharge for extra safety. The fact that this portable cars heater doesn’t have an electrical drain or battery connection makes it the perfect solution for dry camping. You can use the Camco 57341 Olympian Wave-6 is a portable unit or mounted on a wall. While you can use this car heater as a single source of heat for your vehicle, it does a great job when used as a secondary heating source for an RV, cabin, or even home.
The Camco 57341 Olympian Wave-6 has a built in automatic electric Piezo sparker that should last you for approximately 20,000 starts. Because it operates on propane, this heater will never place a drain on your battery. Moreover, because it doesn’t have a fan, is expected to operate silently without any blower noise. Users who tested and reviewed this portable heater mentioned that it is easy to get up to 10 years of use because it is a highly durable machine. It comes with a three year limited warranty for extra peace of mind, but many users mentioned that usually expect to be able to use it for much more time than that without a hitch.
What we liked:
Suitable for camping
Adjustable heat output
What could be better:
Not powerful enough for large RVs
Things to Сonsider
With so many different portable car heaters out there, it might be difficult to find one that is suitable for your car, particularly because not all products are built equally. Some models are especially designed for the side of a regular car, whereas others are suitable for RVs and larger vehicles such as trucks. Our buying guide includes all the features you should look for when shopping for a portable car heater as well as information about how to use and maintain your car heater in order to be able to keep warm inside your vehicle during cold days.
How do portable car heaters work and why are they important?
Portable car heaters are essential for keeping drivers and passengers warm in the car during the cold winter days. They are a must have in many countries with harsh winters, such as Canada and the USA, and many of them have multiple functions, with defrosting being one of the most important ones.
Besides offering an additional source of heat to any car, portable car heaters are also indispensable for car owners who can deal with the unexpected expense of repairing their car heater that went bust, and they also work well in other situations, such as when you want to heat a boat, greenhouse, or any other type of space that doesn’t come with its own source of heat.
The way a portable car heater works depends on their type. Convection portable car heaters are one of the most common choices for cars, trucks, recreational vehicles, and more, and they work by drawing cold air over an electric heating element. This means that they are able to transfer the heat into the air simply because hot air has a lower density than cold air. Fan forced heaters, on the other hand, circulate the heat into the space after moving the air over the heating element. Finally, radiant portable heaters do not warm up the air around them, but instead they emit infrared radiation and heat up objects that are in their immediate vicinity. These heaters are not the best option for cars because they might be dangerous to use in confined spaces.
Portable car heaters – pros and cons
Many people considered a portable car heaters are unnecessary because most cars already have a built-in heating system. Nevertheless, there are multiple reasons to choose a portable car heater for your vehicle. Perhaps the most important of them is the fact that you no longer have to worry about the car heater getting damaged or breaking altogether. If you have a portable car heater at all times in your car, you can be prepared for those moments when you try to crank the heater when you start the car on a winter morning only to feel cool air coming in.
A portable car heater can also help you defrost your vehicle quicker, which is especially important for cars in which heaters don’t even start until the vehicle gets going. Driving even for a little while with frost on the windshield is dangerous, and having a portable car heater can solve this problem.
There are not many cons to having a portable car heater, except maybe for the fact that you need to pay for an extra device to have in your car even though you might only use it in winter. Using a portable car heater also requires you to be careful about safety, but this is true for any device of this kind.
Features to consider when choosing a portable car heater
The features that you consider to be important when choosing a portable car heater varied from one person to another, but as a rule of thumb you should think about the type of car you want to heat and how large of a space the device you are eyeing can heat. You should also consider how loud and how energy efficient the portable car heater is. Other features to look out for include safety features, size (because you need to make sure it is a good fit for your car), and warranty.
Type and power source
There are multiple types of portable car heaters available in the market, but most of them fall in one of the following three categories.
Portable Radiant Heaters — these heaters use heating elements that they do not warm up the air around them. They may not be the first choice for a vehicle for many users because using them in confined spaces may not always be safe. Radiant heaters are a good option for those who have a car that doesn’t receive proper insulation, but you should avoid using them in spots that are too restricting or in very small vehicles. Fan-Forced Heaters — this type of heater circulates the hot air around the room thanks to the building fan. Generally, these heaters are more compact than other models and you can easily use them in different cars as needed. When choosing a fan-forced heater, you need to make sure you can set it in a place where it won’t get in the way of any other objects. One of the main downsides of fan-forced heaters is the fact that they tend to emit a lot of noise. Convection Car Heaters — these heaters are perfectly safe to use in small, confined spaces, so they are a good choice for those who are driving a small car. They generally provide even heating for the whole, but they don’t hit up the air because they don’t have a fan.
Most people prefer fan-forced heaters to heat up their car because even though they are noisier, they do the job quickly and don’t require a lot of space while also being perfectly safe to use even in small cars.
The power of a portable car heater is generally limited to the capacity of the car’s electrical system. As such, it is important to understand the details of the energy system of your car before buying a portable car heater. Every model has a power rating that goes from as little as 12V to up to 180 W, so it is important to check whether the portable car heater you want to buy is compatible with the electrical system of your vehicle.
The size of the car is an essential factor to take into account when shopping for a portable car heater, and the first thing you need to keep in mind is that these heaters are generally a good choice for smaller cars. Large vehicles can be heated as well, but in most cases you’ll notice that a portable car heater cannot handle large spaces.
The heater should be at least 150W for a medium-sized car, and try to avoid ceramic units whenever possible if you intend to heat a car that’s on the larger size.
If you drive a car that is significantly larger than regular ones or you need in a cold atmosphere, it’s a good idea to get a diesel portable car heater because this can deal better with heating larger amounts of air. Look for an in-line model whenever possible because the ones that need to be installed in your car may come with safety risks.
Even though many cars come with climate control these days, the climate that you live in is an important factor to take into account when you consider whether you need a portable car heater. If you live in a part of the country that gets lots of snow, you might need a portable car heater defroster that you can also use to make sure you don’t freeze in your car while driving.
The type and power of a portable car heater are things that you need to take into account while considering the climate that you generally drive in. If the winters are indeed very harsh, look for a portable car heater that has an antifreeze setting and can bring up the temperature inside your car by more than 10° quickly.
Most portable car heaters take about 10 to 15 minutes to heat up your car, but their heating capacity varies, so you need to make sure the unit you choose can handle the size of the vehicle you drive.
Look at the heating capacity mentioned by the manufacturer, which is generally expressed in BTUs. Some models such as the Camco 57341 Olympian Wave-6 have massive capacities of up to 6000 BTUs, but in general, you can expect the portable car heater to have heating capacities between 1000 and 3000 BTUs, which is more than enough to heat medium to large vehicles.
Whether you hear that you have a portable car heater in your car or not depends on its type and power. Some models are so silent that you won’t even notice that they are operating, whereas others can be quite loud. As a rule of thumb, portable car heaters that have fan are noisier than the rest, but you should always look at the noise level mentioned by the manufacturer before making a purchase.
When it comes to any type of heater, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Car heaters are generally used inside the small confines of a vehicle, which means that you have to be super careful about how you install and use it.
Portable car heaters may get significantly hot, and misusing them or using them in a way that they are not intended to may lead to severe injury and even death. Some of the heater coils and cores can get extremely hot, reaching temperatures of 600°F or more. As such, touching them with your bare hand or another part of the body is sure to result in an injury.
With any heater, you should pay attention not to have anything directly positioned in front of it. Moreover, you need to make sure that any convection or radiation heater has an adequate amount of space around it to allow the unit to remain cool and airflow to circulate properly. If you failed to do this, the heater may overheat and even catch on fire.
Even though there are many precautions to consider when using a portable car heater, the good news is that the vast majority of models come with integrated safety features that make them safe to use. These include an automatic high temperature safety sensor like in the case of the Zerostart 2600900 or oxygen depletion system and automatic turn off in the event it tips over, like in the case of the Mr. Heater F242010 MH4GC.
When using a portable car heater, it is important to make sure that you regularly inspect the fuses and wires, and that you shut it off when you’re not using it. You should always make sure that you’re using the correct type of heater for your vehicle and that your unit has a thermostat so you can always check the temperature and avoid overheating.
All portable card heaters come with a limited warranty of at least one year, but with many of them you should expect this warranty to be extended to three or five years. For example, the Camco 57341 Olympian Wave-6 comes with a three year limited warranty, whereas the The RoadPro RPSL-681 has a five year limited warranty.
Because not all portable heaters are built equally, it is important to consider the size before choosing a model for your vehicle. Look for a unit that will fit comfortably in your car and that you personally feel comfortable handling without help. Many models such as the Caframo Limited True North Space Heater are very compact, but others like the Camco 57341 Olympian Wave-6 are much larger and only suitable to be used in RVs. When checking the size of the portable car heater, you need to take into account not just the physical space where you intend to place it, but also that it has enough space to generate air without any objects in the immediate proximity.
Just like in the case of sizing, weight is another important element to consider, especially if you want to be able to transport the unit easily from one vehicle to another. Some models, such as the Camco 57341 Olympian Wave-6, are quite heavy at 14 lbs, but others, like the Mr. Heater F242010 MH4GC, only weigh 1.5 lbs., which makes them super easy to handle.
When it comes to prices, they vary according to the brand and power of the portable car heater. Fan heaters, specifically ceramic ones, are the most affordable in general, but they may also have higher running costs. The price varies between models not only according to power and size, but also depending on the number of features you can expect to find on them.
Some of the extra features you may expect to find in a portable car heater include a timer that allows you to set the heater to run at set periods, which may come in handy if you want to have the interior of your car warm when you get there, and a thermostat, which is basically a heat activated switch that allows you to regulate the temperature in your car by turning it on when the temperature is below a minimum and turning it off when the maximum set temperature is reached.
Some models, such as the Camco 57341 Olympian Wave-6 can be wall-mounted, which makes them suitable for different types of uses, such as in homes and cabins. A wind resistant protective screen is available for some models that are intended for outdoor use, such as the Mr. Heater F242010 MH4GC, which is a good option for golf cart. Models like the RoadPro RPSL-681 can be hooked up directly to the vehicle battery and come with a swivel base for extra easy use.
Tips and tricks to help you heat your vehicle
If you live in a country where winters are harsh, you already know the importance of heating up you will be able to comfortable degree before driving. Winter is the worst enemy of the car and drivers on the road, but fortunately there are lots of ways to warm up the car faster, with portable car heaters playing an important role in this process.
The best way to warm up your car is to do it before driving, which is safer for the engine. Nevertheless, if you’re in a rush, this method may not be the perfect one for you. If you want to warm up the engine faster while also heating up your cabin, it’s important not to remain in the driveway for long. Idling is not efficient when warming a car, which is why it is important to start driving right away. This way, the car will warm up faster.
Besides making your engine heat faster, you should also take steps to stop heat loss. Some simple ways to reduce heat loss and insulate your vehicle for window include using thermal insulation on the hood and case. Because this might be an expensive process, many car owners prefer to use a portable car heater to supplement the heating provided by the main built-in heater.
Many portable car heaters offer a defrosting setting, which comes in handy in winter when you want to be able to start driving as quickly as possible. Driving with frost on your windows is not only inconvenient, but also plain dangerous, so it’s important to make sure you eliminate it as much as possible before driving. Some models, such as our editor’s choice, the ROYADVE Portable Car Heater, work perfectly fine as a defroster, but this is not the case with any model on the market, so make sure the unit you choose has this function if it is important for you.
Most portable heaters can heat up your car in about 10 minutes, but this depends on its power and the size of your vehicle as well. If you’re looking for a fast heating portable car heater, make sure that you read the reviews from users to make sure that the device you choose has the capacity to heat up your car as quickly as possible.
It is not always necessary to start the car’s engine in order for a portable car heater to work, but this varies from one model to another. For example, the Back Seat Heat Plus requires the user to turn on the engine in order to work, but other model such as the ROYADVE Portable Car Heater can heat up your car in a matter of minutes even when the engine is off.
Portable car heaters are the easiest way to supplement or replace the main heater in your car, and there are not too many alternatives to them if you want your car to get to a comfortable temperature quickly. The main solution to a broken car heater is an electric portable heater, and this is also true for those looking to get the interior of their car warmer than they can do with the original built-in car heater.
After reviewing the best models available on the market, we concluded that the ROYADVE Portable Car Heater is the best option out there, and we featured it as our editor’s choice. This is a versatile unit, as you can use it as a demister, defogger, to defrost the windows and even to remove snow. We also liked that this portable car heater is built from high-quality materials and you can expect it to last for years.
If you’re looking for a model that brings the best value for money, the Zerostart 2600900 is a lightweight and portable car heater that is super easy to install and has multiple safety features such as automatic shutdown.
Finally, if you’re looking for the best portable car heater on a budget, our choice is the Caframo Limited True North Space Heater, which is a slick unit that works well for just about vehicle and comes with the added benefit of multiple temperature settings.