The 4 Best Portable Electric Car Heaters of 2019

Helping you warm up on the go

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best for Defrosting Your Windshield: Ferryone Portable Car Heater

Unfortunately, in the category of 12-volt car heaters that plug into your vehicle's cigarette lighter, almost all of the units available don’t get warm enough for us to recommend them, especially for use as a primary car heater. Even this unit works best for defogging or defrosting your windshield, or as a way to warm up your car a bit before the actual heater kicks in. We wouldn't recommend using it as a substitute or replacement for a broken car heater — it simply isn't powerful enough.

With all that said, the Ferryone Portable Car Heater is the best unit we’ve found for defrosting and temporary heating. The Ferryone is easy to set up — just plug it into your cigarette lighter socket, then flip the switch on the side to either "fan" or "heat." On the "heat" setting, it takes about a minute to start blowing warm air. The Ferryone also includes a 180-degree rotary holder that allows you to direct the heat up or down.

Best for Pre-Heating Your Car: AmazonBasics 1500 Watt Ceramic Space Heater

When it comes to prepping your car for a drive in the cold, you may want to consider a compact space heater that can quickly heat up your vehicle's interior before you leave. But there are a few important notes: First, most space heaters (including this one) draw power from a regular prong plug, so you will either need to plug it in in your garage, or use a car power inverter that will allow you to use the power from the cigarette lighter. Second, it's important to always exercise caution and use common sense when heating up your car with a space heater — they are not designed for vehicles and can become a fire hazard if used incorrectly or left unsupervised.

If you're still considering a space heater for your car, this AmazonBasics 1500 Watt Ceramic Space Heater is a relatively inexpensive and versatile unit. And it has an important safety feature, too — the heater will automatically turn off if it tips over or overheats, which is especially crucial when using it around vehicles. It also has a carrying handle so you easily transport it between your car and home, and has three output options (low, high, or fan only) plus a power indicator light that lets you know when it's plugged in.

Best Heated Seat Cushion: Big Ant Heated Seat Cushion

Heated seats can help keep you warm and cozy in your car during the colder months. Unfortunately, not all vehicles have them built in. For those who still want that heated seat comfort, the Big Ant Heated Seat Cushion is a great option. Just plug the unit into a 12-volt cigarette lighter socket and then turn on the heat via the high or low switch. After that, it takes about three minutes to heat up, with a maintained temperature between 110 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This unit only comes in black, but it looks very neutral in your car and the non-slip rubber-soled backing prevents it from slipping around on your car's upholstery.

Best Electric Blanket: Trillium Worldwide Car Cozy 2

A portable electric blanket is a great way to stay warm in the car on a cold drive, and this one from Trillium Worldwide plugs into your car’s 12-volt cigarette lighter socket so you or a passenger can stay toasty wherever you go. Measuring a comfortable 42 x 58 inches, it is made from soft polyester fleece with small electric coils inside. The seven-foot fused power cord is just long enough that the blanket can be used in either the front or back seat.

The unit can be set for either 30 minutes or 45 minutes at a time, and after that it will automatically shut off. Because of safety reasons, the blanket does not get “hot,” but it does get warm. This means that it is not suitable for extreme weather conditions and should just be used as a supplemental heat source.

What to Look for in a Portable Electric Car Heater

Functionality - What is it you’re trying to warm up in your car? Whether you’re defrosting your windshield or heating your passenger seat, there's a slew of heaters for each purpose. However, note that most are not meant to serve as dedicated space heaters so consider the safety hazards before buying one.

Compatibility - It can take a lot of power to warm up a cold car, so first make sure the heater you’re buying is compatible with the standard 12-volt plug integrated into your car’s cigarette lighter. If, instead, you need a heater with a two-prong plug, purchase a car power inverter so you can still draw power from the cigarette lighter. 

Price - Many car heaters and accessories are fairly inexpensive, but it’s important to weigh the value you get from them. If they aren’t adequately warming up your car, they might not be worth the price, no matter how cheap. Fixing your vehicle’s heating system will probably cost you much more, but it may be worth it.