During the cold season, the climate inside your car can get really chilly. And not just that; you’ll often find the windows defrosted, making it difficult to see what’s outside. A portable car heater can not only help add warmth to the car’s interior but also defrost your windows so you can enjoy the outside view.
Typically plugged into the car’s 12-volt adapter, these heaters are lightweight and start releasing heat within seconds. This guide is designed to help you select the best 12 volt car heater. But first, let’s review some of the best products in this category.
6 Best 12 Volt Car Heaters
12-volt heaters for car come in many styles. If you’re in a hurry, the following are six quality options to consider;
Last update on 2020-10-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
1. KINGLETING Heated Seat Cushion
The KINGLETING heated seat cushion brings a luxurious feel to the interior of any vehicle. Whether it’s a car, SUV, or RV, you can rest assured that the heated cushion will fit your seats. The cushions are designed with non-slip rubber on the bottom. The KINGLETING also features elastic bands that help fasten the cushion to the seat.
With regards to performance, the cushions heat up in a minute and provide ideal warmth to your entire back, thighs, and hips. Better still, the temperature is adjustable, with the lowest possible temperature being 30C (86F). From there, you can adjust the temperature upwards by 3C (37.4F) through to 60C (140F). An auto-timer exists that automatically shuts off the cushions after 30, 60, or 90 minutes as you wish.
Above all, the heated cushion is safe and reliable. The heating system is equipped with a protection thermostat to prevent the cushions from overheating.
- Heats up in a minute
- Intelligent temperature control
- Auto power-off protection
- Protection thermostat prevents overheating
- It can catch fire
2. Stalwart 75-hblanket Electric Car Blanket
The Stalwart 75-hblanket plugs right into your cigarette lighter and comes with a 96-inch cord meaning you don’t have to worry about getting it to any seat in the car. Even if you decide to buy one for the backseats, the cord will get there.
The Stalwart blanket also heats up super fast and stays warm at the chosen temperature until you unplug it. This way, you’ll be cozy and warm throughout your drive. It’s also very thin compared to other seat warmers. But, the thin wires give off warm and comfortable heat reliably. Since it’s thin, the blanket folds with ease during storage and can be tucked in the trunk or stored in the backseat without taking up too much space. It even comes with a storage case with handles.
The 75-hblanket measures 59 x 43 inches and is made from 100% polyester. It comes in black or white and is easy to clean. Do not machine wash it.
- LED indicators
- Automatic temperature control
- Includes plastic storage case with handles
- 96-inch long cord
- No machine washing
3. RV Camper 12-Volt Auto Defroster with LED Light
First and foremost, the unit blows out a stream of hot air to the interior of the car. But, it doesn’t stop there; the RV Camper can also defrost, prevent fog, and melt snow. Additionally, it has an air purifier function so you can keep your car smelling good and nice throughout your ride. This makes even more sense considering that you’ll spend most of the winter season with the windows closed.
The rubberized heater comes with a 7-foot power cord. Make sure only to plug it into 15-amp, 12-volt rated power outlets. Other features of the RV Camper include 360-degrees swivel base for dash mounting and a separate switche for heater/fan/lamp. It also has a swing-out handle that lets you use the heater as a spot defroster.
- Built-in LED flashlight
- 15-amp inline blade fuse
- Three-position heat switch
- 90-day warranty
- Takes a bit longer to warm up
If you’re looking for a small 12 volt heater for camper, then you may want to consider this model. It offers you a wider range of functions and can be used for trucks, RVs, and cars.
4. HonsCreat 12V DC Portable 300W Tungsten Car Heater
Another value-for-money option to consider, the HonsCreat is a tungsten heater. Electric current is passed through the tungsten, generating heat. The heat is distributed throughout the cabin with the help of a fan.
This 12 volt car heater 300W is fully automatic. The unit detects the heat levels in your cabin and turns the heat production process ON or OFF to increase or reduce the cabin temperatures as necessary. Aside from heating, the HonsCreat also helps with glass defrosting during the cold weather. Instant, powerful heating and automatic overheat protection are other features of the heaters.
The unit is very easy to mount. Mounting brackets are even included in the package. The package also contains an aluminum ring, two clips, and an aluminum tube.
- Portable fan for easy installation
- Excellent for travel and camping
- Provides instant heat
- Helps with glass defrosting
- Requires professional positioning
5. RoadWorthy Back Seat Heat Plus 1100 BTU 12V Truck Heater
The 12-volt, forced-air ceramic RoadWorthy truck heater adds plenty of heat to your cabin. But, the first thing you need to know is that the RoadWorthy cannot work as the primary heat source in the car. It’s best used as a complementary heat source. Regardless, the air coming out is between 20 and 30 degrees higher than the air going in.
With regards to power, the heater produces 1,100BTU of instant heat. It uses a unique cell design and boasts 100% efficient heat transfer to the surrounding air. Mounting is best done by a professional. But, if you choose to do it alone, mount the unit low on the floor under elevated seats on wheel wells.
Hardwire installation may be required. The necessary wiring, a universal mounting bracket, and an optional dash-mounted switch are included in the package.
- Easy installation
- Generates 1,100 BTU of power
- Dashboard on/off switch controls
- Comes with 20-foot wiring harness
- Only works as a supplementary heating source
6. 12 Volt Rubberized Electric Car Heater & Defroster
Finally, and arguably the cheapest option on this list at less than $15, the 12-volt auto heater/defroster with light is a fast and effective way to add warmth to your car.
Installing the heater is easy. Plug it into a 15A-rated 12V accessory power outlet. Do not use any other outlet. In can burn light sockets, for instance. After plugging it, turn the power on by toggling the power switch. You get to choose between Heat or Fan operation. For heating, choose heat mode. Then, mount the dashboard or hold it over the windshield for spot defrosting. For handheld operation, pull out the handle from the housing.
Other features of the heater include a 360-degrees swivel base for dash mounting, separate switches for heater/fan/lamp, and a built-in flashlight.
- 15-amp inline blade fuse
- Swing-out handle
- Three-position heat switch
- 87-inch cord
- Requires high-rated plug
Best 12 Volt Car Heater Buying Guide
There are several questions you need to ask yourself before selecting the right 12 volt electric car heater. Ideally, these questions should address how you plan to use the heater. This would, for instance, allow you to choose between plug-in heaters and larger, hardwired options. The questions would also help you decide the right wattage to get the job done. The following are some top questions and considerations to help;
12-Volt Car Heater Types
There are three main types of car heaters i.e., portable convection heaters, fan-forced heaters, and portable radiant heaters. Here’s what you need to know about each heater types;
- Convection Portable Heaters
Convection portable car heaters draw cold air over an electric healing element. As the cold air passes of the heated element, it becomes heated in the process. The heated air is then transferred into the air around you. As the warm air rises through convection, cold air takes its place at the bottom where it’s pulled into the heating system. This cycle is known as convection. To avoid heat escape, convection heaters work best in sealed up cars.
Oil-filled heaters are one of the best examples of convection car heaters. An electric heating element heats oil sealed inside the heaters. The heat from the oil is then transferred to the casing, which transfers it to the surrounding air. Convection heaters, however, tend to be slow.
- Fan-Forced Heaters
These heaters also rely on an electric heating element. But, the big difference is that they don’t entirely rely on natural convection. Instead, fan-forced heaters are equipped with a fan that helps to move the heated air. Using the fans, the heaters circulate heat not only faster but also more efficiently. Unlike with convective heaters, you don’t have to wait for minutes for the whole car to get warm. The heaters also take up less space than convective heaters. One downside, however, is noise. Wherever there is a fan, there is noise, and fan-forced car heaters aren’t different.
Two subcategories you’ll likely come across here are ceramic and metallic heaters. Ceramic heaters are advantageous because they heat faster and are safer.
- Radiant Portable Heaters
Finally, radiant portable car heaters use electric heating elements too. But, rather than transfer heat to the surrounding air like convective or fan-forced heaters, they emit infrared radiation that only warms up objects. In the car, these would include the car’s interior elements and occupants. These objects then transfer some of the heat to the surrounding air through radiation.
Radiant car heaters are a severe fire hazard especially when used in confined spaces such as a small car. They’re a much better option in larger RVs.
Advantages of 12-Volt Car Heaters
12 volt car heater autozone have many advantages both in the cold weather and the warm seasons. The following are four primary benefits of these heaters;
- They keep the car warm during the cold season
Most cars have an in-built heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Under normal weather and mildly cold situations, the in-built heating system would be enough to keep the car and its occupants warm. However, in extreme cold, even the largest in-built HVAC system may be insufficient. Whenever you experience these conditions, a 12-volt heater would come in and help raise the in-car temperatures to desired levels.
- Seat warmers relieve muscle tension
If you choose to invest in heated cushions that are installed on the seats (thus the name seat warmers), you also stand to enjoy a few health benefits, including relief of muscle tension. The radiating warmth can help alleviate issues such as fatigue and back pain after a long day’s work. Additionally, some seat warmers come with customizable features that may help relieve knots, aches, muscle tension, and stress.
- Enjoy customizable heating within the car
Sometimes you may not need to warm the whole car. For example, when driving alone, you may only need to warm the driver’s seat. On the flip side, when you have passengers, the back row passengers may have different heating needs compared to those in the front seat. Modern 12-volt portable car heating systems allow for customized heating to keep everyone comfortable and cozy throughout the drive.
- It offers an affordable car heating upgrade
Not everyone can afford a luxurious car with heated front and back row seats. In some mid-range cars, for instance, only the front row seats are heated. Some cars, meanwhile, don’t have heating at all. A 12 volt car heater autozone offers an affordable upgrade option for owners looking to add heating to their cars.
Factors to Consider When Buying a 12-Volt Car Heating System
Since 12-volt car heaters come in all shapes and styles, you must make your pick based on your needs and preferences. We advise that you prioritize the following five factors;
- Heating style: We’ve already discussed the three main heating styles. Which method would best suit your needs; convective, force-air, or radiant heat? Take time to understand the pros and cons of each option to make an informed decision.
- Heating speed: Another critical factor to consider is the speed of heating. How long does the heating system take to raise cabin temperatures to the desired level? Since winter temperatures can be extremely cold, you want a system that will heat the cabin fast. These fast- heating systems might be slightly pricy though.
- Construction: Portable car heating systems are made from different materials e.g., polyester, nylon, etc. Choose a material that can withstand heavy use for the long winter spells. Also, we recommend that you find a heating system with a long cord that connects to your car’s cigarette lighter without undue strain. Above all, the heating material should have a steady swivel base for maximum support.
- Temperature control: We all would want a situation where we can control the rate at which heat enters the cabin. And, that’s where controls come in. Temperature control mechanisms allow you to adjust the speed at which heat is released from the heating system to match your needs at any specific time. Some heaters even come with automatic switches that turn off the heating system in case it’s left plugged in for too long.
- Convenience features: Some heating systems, especially seat warmers, come with massaging features. These features serve to increase comfort levels while promoting better blood circulation. The features will come at an extra cost. But, where the budget isn’t a problem, you should consider them.
12-Volt Car Heater FAQs
The following are answers to other common portable car heater questions to help you make an informed decision;
- How Much Does a 12-Volt Car Heater Cost?
The prices vary from under $30 to over $50. The higher the price, the higher the quality of both the construction and heat produced. For $30, you’ll likely get a simple heater with essential attributes. $50+, however, would get you a premium heater with heat control and many other valuable features.
- Which are the Best Brands?
Most manufacturers in this category do a great job. As long as you’re willing to pay up, you’ll get quality heaters that can last several years. Kingleting, Sojoy Universal, and Roadpro, however, are some of the highest-rated car heater product brands.
- Are 12-Volt Car Heaters Risky?
Yes. Since the products use electricity, there’s always the risk of electrocution and fire. To avoid any safety hazards and get the most out of your car heater, have the heater installed by a professional, properly maintain it, and ensure that there are no exposed wires.
- Does the Heater Run when the Car is Off?
Some do; others don’t. Most cars don’t preserve any electric current in the cigarette lighter once the vehicle is turned off. If this is the case, the heater won’t work when the car is off. However, some vehicles preserve electric charge in the cigarette lighter for up to 30 minutes after the car is turned off. In these cars, the heater will work for about 30 minutes after the engine is turned off.
12-volt car heaters offer an inexpensive option when you need to add, upgrade, or complement heating in your car. Costing $30 to $50 and easy to both install and maintain, they can be a valuable investment, especially during the cold winter season. If you decide to buy one, make sure to consider factors such as heating style, temperature control, construction material, and convenience features.