Tested: Top-rated Portable Electric Coolers, Perfect for Road Trips

best electric coolers tested in back of suv
Best Electric Coolers for 2023, TestedGannon Burgett - Car and Driver

"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."

Keeping food and drinks cold is an essential aspect of any tailgate, road trip, or potluck convoy. Whether it's a salad or some adult beverages, you don't want to be that person who brings lukewarm refreshments. But sometimes, just a regular ice chest won't cut it.

Enter portable electric coolers. An electric cooler can keep food and drinks chilled and even frozen, no ice required. They're extremely handy for road trips, car camping, hunting trips, and more.

Our Picks: Best Portable Electric Coolers You Can Buy

There are two main types of portable electric coolers: thermoelectric and compressor. Thermoelectric coolers can often heat the contents too, but they won't get your food down to freezing temps. Compressor coolers can get food and drink to freezing, but they're often heavier.


So which one do you choose? The first step is establishing why you need a portable electric cooler. If you just want something to keep sandwiches edible on a road trip, thermoelectric is just fine. If you need to freeze fresh meat after a hunting trip or keep frozen food frozen until you arrive at your destination, you'll want a compressor cooler.

For this test, we picked out seven of the top portable electric coolers on the market. We collected both objective and subjective data on a variety of parameters to arrive at our conclusions. Bear in mind that most of these coolers are available in multiple sizes, so our notes on internal size are more for general storage expectations.

Without further ado, here are our Electric Cooler picks.

How We Tested Portable Electric Coolers

We used a combination of practical observations and hard data for this test. Using an army of Bluetooth thermometers, boxes of evenly sized soda and beer cans, and an average-size Kia Sorento, we set to work. Here are the parameters we tested:

  • Cooling efficiency/time

  • Insulation

  • Size/Space

  • Capacity

  • Design

Upon gathering our data and testing notes, we set to work deciding which coolers were the best for certain situations. Here are our picks for the best electric coolers.

Igloo 28-Quart Thermoelectric Hot/Cold Cooler

For most of us, this 28-quart cooler from Igloo nailed the sweet spot. The thermoelectric powerplant provides cooling power to 36 degrees Fahrenheit below the ambient temperature and can also heat the inside up to 136 degrees Fahrenheit. This flexibility allows you to keep cold things cold and hot things hot. It's the best of both worlds.

The Igloo lacks a freezer function, but the attractive price point reflects that. The design isn't anything impressive, but it's what Igloo is known for: functional and durable. The small size is perfect for road trippers and truckers—it fits just about anywhere in the vehicle, even the front floorboard—and the price is undeniably great, which is why we picked it as the Best Compact Electric Cooler. We wish it had an alternate power source besides its 12-volt cig-lighter plug, but there are plenty of affordable DC to AC adapters available at Amazon.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Igloo 28-Quart Thermoelectric Hot/Cold Cooler</p><p></p><p>$144.99</p><span class="copyright">Gannon Burgett</span>

Alpicool CF45 48-Quart Electric Cooler/Freezer

The electric car coolers/freezers in this test vary wildly in price, but this Alpicool 48-quart entry held its own against the more expensive options. It boasts a healthy capacity, holding 59 soda cans (without the internal basket). The cooler comes with 12-volt and 120-volt power cords, so you can pre-cool it at home, keep it cooling on the road, and plug it in when you arrive at your destination.

The Alpicool didn't get as cold as some of the others we tested (see graph below), but it was definitely cold enough to keep frozen items frozen. This is a great choice.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Alpicool CF45 48-Quart Electric Cooler/Freezer</p><p></p><p>$289.99</p><span class="copyright">Gannon Burgett</span>

EverFrost Powered Cooler 30

The Anker EverFrost 40L is unlike any other cooler on this list. In addition to being able to be plugged into your vehicle for cooling on the road, it also features a built-in 299Wh battery that can power the cooler even when it’s unplugged.

This means you can keep your items chilling even when your car is turned off without draining your vehicle’s battery. It also means you can take the cooler to a tailgate party or beach and keep your food and drinks cold all day long. How long the removable battery can power the cooler varies greatly based on ambient temperature, the temperature you set it to, and whether or not it was pre-chilled beforehand while plugged into the wall or vehicle, but with an ambient temperature of 78-degrees, our EverFrost unit kept 65 cans at 36-degrees for around 32 hours.

When plugged into a standard AC wall outlet, the unit took just 28 minutes to get from 71-degrees to 32-degrees using its integrated compressor. When doing the same test with battery power, it took 36 minutes and used 26-percent of the battery. So, if you want to maximize how long the battery will last, be sure to pre-chill it using power from your vehicle or wall outlet.

Speaking of power, the battery can charge through USB-C and a 100W XT-style connection. This XT connector will work with the car charger, wall charger, and even solar panels with the appropriate output or adapter. Anker sells its own solar panels, but any brand should work so long as you convert it to the appropriate male XT connector. The battery will also charge passively via the car and wall charging input that’s on the bottom of the cooler.

Other cool features include extra USB-A and USB-C charging ports on the battery for charging your mobile devices, as well as a fold-out “EasyTow” handle that doubles as a surface for cutting or holding items.

We tested the 40L model, but there’s also a smaller 30L model and a larger dual-zone 50L model with two areas that can be independently cooled.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>EverFrost Powered Cooler 30</p><p></p><p>$799.00</p><span class="copyright">Gannon Burgett - Car and Driver</span>

Bodega 80-Quart Electric Cooler/Freezer

For the tailgater who wants to bring all the goodies, this 80-quart Bodega beast is our pick. Featuring two internal zones that can be independently controlled, it's the ultimate extra-large electric cooler/freezer. The 80-quart combined capacity is handy too, allowing us to cram in 102 soda cans.

This cooler/freezer won't be for every driver, as the size makes it unwieldy and difficult to store. But if you have the room, it's the perfect tool to transform a tailgate party.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Bodega 80-Quart Electric Cooler/Freezer</p><p></p><p>$799.99</p><span class="copyright">Gannon Burgett</span>

Dometic CFX3 37-Quart Electric Cooler/Freezer

One of the industry leaders in portable cooling and refrigeration, Dometic is renowned for its RV air conditioners. That said, if you want to splurge on a top-of-the-line electric cooler/freezer to take along in your car or truck, this is the one you want. It reached the coldest temps in our test (see graph below) by a good margin. It's extremely well built, featuring spring-loaded handles, an easy-to-use interface, and a sturdy hinge.

Temperature control is accessible through an app, and the option to power it by a separate solar panel opens it up for use off the grid. Yes, it's pricey, but well worth the money.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Dometic CFX3 37-Quart Electric Cooler/Freezer</p><p></p><p>$862.26</p><span class="copyright">Gannon Burgett</span>

BougeRV 23-Quart Electric Cooler/Freezer

If you're looking for a great deal on a portable electric car freezer, you've found it. We really liked the compact size of the BougeRV; its dimensions are ideal for road trips in small cars. (Again, most of these portable coolers come in multiple sizes; which one you need is up to you.) As far as performance, the BougeRV was comparable with our Best Budget Cooler listed above but came up just short with its insulation; once unplugged, it lost its internal temp just a tad faster than the Alpicool. But it costs about a hundred bucks less, and Alpicool doesn't make a model that's this compact.

A fantastic option for a road-trip freezer, it performed well in our vehicle space test; it'll fit just about anywhere. If you need to keep frozen items from melting in a compact space, this is the portable cooler to get.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>BougeRV 23-Quart Electric Cooler/Freezer</p><p></p><p>$199.99</p><span class="copyright">Gannon Burgett</span>

Coleman 40-Quart Thermoelectric Cooler

If you're looking for a larger thermoelectric cooler, this one from Coleman worked really well. It's about a third larger than the Igloo for just a bit more money. Better yet, it can be stored with the lid up (like in the photo) or on its side with the lid facing out, like a mini-fridge. Note, though, that it's not a freezer.