Top Portable Car Heaters for Winter – SlashGear

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Car driving down snowy road

Your car’s heater is an important tool. It’s not just for keeping the cabin warm and comfortable during the harsh winter temperatures. It’s also used for defrosting the car when there’s snow or frost as well as defogging the windows while driving. That last one is particularly important because it keeps your view unobstructed while on the road. When it comes to safety, there isn’t anything better than having a functional car heater.

That said, there are some instances where additional heat is nice. A vehicle’s HVAC system may be underperforming, or it might be particularly frigid outside and the car’s heater is having problems keeping up. Some folks are predisposed to being cold and appreciate the extra level of comfort. In those instances, a portable car heater can augment your car’s existing system to make you more comfortable.

It’s important to keep expectations in check. Portable car heaters are a niche category, and there are not a lot of products there. Such devices are mostly meant to assist your car’s HVAC system rather than take over the job entirely. Thus, we do not recommend any of these products as a full replacement for a properly functioning HVAC system for both comfort and safety reasons. With that out of the way, here are the best portable car heaters you can get.

How we chose

A car's heat vents

This is a niche category, which made choosing products rather difficult. What few product lines exist for this category are full of lackluster, copycat designs that don’t work all that well. That said, we were able to think outside the box and come up with some devices that can help keep you warm in your car. Those who are looking for a heater that you can use with a 12V plug are going to be disappointed. That is simply not enough electricity to generate a meaningful amount of heat. 

We also took safety into consideration. For example, there are online publications that legitimately suggest something like the Mr. Heater Golf Cart Heater for vehicle use. That particular heater uses a propane tank and is meant to sit in a golf cart’s cup holder. For obvious safety reasons, we don’t recommend using a gas-powered heater in your vehicle, even if it’s well-ventilated. Such products were immediately removed from consideration, even if some folks thought it was a good idea to use them in cars. There are safer car accessories out there.

For the products we did deem good enough to place on the list, we did our due diligence. Each product was put through Fakespot and any product with too low of a rating was immediately dismissed for not having reliable enough reviews. We also cross-checked with reviews from online publications, Reddit, YouTube, and other sources when they were available. Every product on this list has at least mostly positive and reliable reviews compared to most of its competitors.

Best overall — Kingleting Heated Seat Cushion

A Kingleting heated seat cushion

The Kingleting Heated Seat Cushion is a great place to start for extra heating in your cabin. It uses a 120V plug, so we only recommend this to people who have such a socket in their car. It comes with three temperature settings that range from 104 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. That should help keep you nice and toasty on a frigid day.

There is also a pressure sensor. It’ll automatically turn itself on or off depending on whether anyone is in the seat. It’s a cushion rather than a full cover, so it’s easy to install into almost any type of car. The straps and fasteners are reasonably laid out and it doesn’t move around a lot once you’re sitting on it. It’s made for office use, so you can take it into the office with you and heat your seat there as well.

You can buy the Kingleting Heated Seat Cushion for around $50 on Amazon.

Second best overall — Stalwart 12V Electric Blanket

A plaid electric blanket

For your passengers, a 12V electric blanket can help keep the chill out. This one uses a 12V plug so it should work in every mainstream vehicle made within the last half a century. The blanket features a fleece design, so it’s relatively warm even without electricity. It’s also just a hair below six feet long, so it should be long enough for a typical adult.

Rounding out the product feature list is a 96-inch cord. That is nice to have because it’ll reach into the front seat from the rear, so passengers in the back can use it as well. It works about as well as an electric blanket can on a 12V connection. There should be enough heat for most folks. In any case, after a few minutes, it should be enough to stave off an otherwise chilly cabin. We do not recommend this for the driver of the vehicle for safety reasons.

You can buy the Stalwart 12V Electric Blanket on Amazon for approximately $25.

Best 12V portable car heater — TikScience 12V Car Heater

A dash-mounted car heater

The TikScience 12V Portable Car Heater is one of the few car heaters good enough to recommend. It’s the best of a bad batch of products that blow air across your dashboard, but don’t generate enough heat to really do much. The purpose of a product like this is to help defog the windshield, which it is just barely powerful enough to accomplish.

The heat that comes out of this product is not impressive, but it is good enough. It’s installed by mounting it to the dashboard and pointing it at the windshield. It’ll then blow warm air to assist in defogging. For that purpose, it works okay. It’s best used when augmenting a car’s HVAC system that is underperforming for whatever reason. Ultimately, it’ll do, but it’s not something we would lean on forever. 

You can buy the TikScience 12V Car Heater for $22.99 on Amazon. 

Best 120V car heater — Minetom Space Heater

A plug-in space heater

The Minetom Space Heater is another decent option for vehicles equipped with a 120V household-style socket. It plugs in and starts blasting heat. Unlike 12V options, this actually has the capacity to heat up a vehicle’s cabin. It’s also all one unit, so you plug it in and you don’t have to worry about balancing it on your seats or in any other awkward spot.

It won’t work as well as your car’s HVAC system, but it’ll take the edge off the cold better than any 12V option will. The only warning is that you may want to crack your windows a bit to avoid your windshield fogging over, which will almost certainly happen with a space heater like this in a cabin environment. We recommend turning it off if the windshield fog is bad enough that it starts to impede visibility.

You can buy the Minetom Space Heater on Amazon, priced in the $20-$25 range.

Best seat cushion — Sunny Color Seat Cushion

A heated seat cushion

The Sunny Color Seat Cushion is a good option for a seat warmer in your car. It’s covered with velour, so it’ll be comfortable. The buckles that hold it to your car seat are also good, and the cushion won’t shift around on you while you’re driving. It is a cushion and not a cover, so installation should be fairly simple. The only downside in terms of design is that it only comes in one color, black. It can look a bit out of place in brighter-colored cabins.

The seat uses a 12V connector, so it should function in all modern vehicles. There are a couple of heat adjustments. It won’t be as consistent as a built-in seat heater. It also has a tendency to turn off and on to help regulate its temperature, so some folks may notice that. It’s about as good as 12V-powered seat heater cushions get, and it’s not terribly expensive.

You can buy the Sunny Color Seat Cushion right now on Amazon for $54.99.

Best heated blanket — iHealthComfort 12V Heated Blanket

Gray and blue heated blanket

The iHealthComfort 12V heated blanket is a good option for electric blankets in the car. It uses a 12V connection, so it plugs right into the cigarette lighter. That means it’s compatible with most types of vehicles. The material is a comfortable and familiar fleece that is reasonably warm even without electricity. There is a controller attached to the blanket with a few settings. They include timer settings to automatically shut off the blanket after a specified amount of time.

In addition to the above, the blanket has electric safeguards, which means it’ll turn itself on and off to maintain a temperature instead of staying on all the time. At 55 inches long, it should be long enough for most adults, but taller folks may wish it were a little longer. It’s a good overall blanket.

You can buy the iHealthComfort heated blanket on Amazon for $44.99.

Best battery-powered heater — Ocoopa Rechargeable Hand Warmer

Ocoopa hand warmer with packaging

The Ocoopa Rechargeable Hand Warmer is a decent option for a portable car heater. It’s safe, fits in your pocket, and keeps your hands warm. Some people even put them in interior jacket pockets to keep their coats a bit warmer in harsher cold weather. This one also doubles as a portable power bank for your phone or other electronics. It houses a 10,000-mAh battery for such tasks. You get 15 hours of heat from a full charge, assuming you don’t use it as a battery.

There are multiple protections in place to prevent the warmer from overheating or breaking in other ways, which is always a nice touch, especially if you plan to use it in a car. There are three levels of heat, ranging from 95 degrees to 131 degrees Fahrenheit. It even comes with a velvet bag. Overall, it’s a pretty good product.

You can buy the Ocoopa Rechargeable Hand Warmer on Amazon for $32.99.

Use or install a remote starter

Hand holding car keyfob

There are other ways to get heat into your car without buying a portable car heater. The best idea is to use or install a remote starter for your car. Remote starters let you safely start your car from the comfort of your home. Your car’s HVAC system should do a better job of heating up the interior space better than any product you can buy. Plus, the built-up warmth helps melt snow and ice off of your windshield while you make coffee and get ready for the day.

There are additional benefits to a remote starter. Some vehicles, like many Jeeps, have automatic climate controls. Those controls can activate seat warmers, a heated steering wheel, and other climate tech when remote starting. That means your seat, steering wheel, and cabin are nice and warm when you get there. Those who have to install a third-party remote starter won’t get those luxuries, but they do exist.

Of course, this isn’t the best idea for people who park in a garage, due to exhaust build-up. However, you can always just open the garage door, remote start, and then proceed with getting ready so you can leave without smoking out your garage. Whenever possible, using your car’s native HVAC system will be better than a dedicated warmer, and a remote starter helps your car get warm before you get into it.

Try servicing your HVAC system yourself

Two air filters in car

If you’re reading this list because your car’s HVAC system isn’t cutting it, then it may be time to get the whole system serviced. There are a variety of factors that can contribute to an underperforming HVAC system in a car. For example, all cars use the air conditioning to dry out the air in the car, which helps defog the windshield. A weak or broken AC compressor may hinder this process, and then also make life horrible the next summer when you need cold air.

There are other parts of an HVAC system that can go wrong, and some you can even check yourself. If you can’t remember the last time you or anyone else changed your cabin air filter, it’s probably time. Build-up on the filter can hinder airflow. In addition, thicker air filters can also cause reduced airflow, so perhaps a cheaper, thinner air filter can help improve airflow. A new air filter costs under $20 and you can install it yourself in under 30 minutes, without tools (most of the time). Simply check YouTube for instructions for your particular make and model.

If all else fails, taking your car into the dealership to have it diagnosed is a good option. Sometimes it’s as simple as something getting clogged or a dirty condenser coil on an AC compressor. Such issues will only get worse if you don’t get ahead of them, so it’s definitely worth finding out why your heating isn’t working well.

Get your HVAC system fixed

Hand held over car vent

If everything above fails, it’s time to start thinking about ponying up the money and having your heater fixed. Nothing is forever and there are several parts that can go bad in a car’s HVAC system. Fans, AC compressors, knobs, and actuators all go bad. Some of them are easy to fix, but others, like the mechanism that switches your car from hot to cold air, are best left to professionals. In any case, sometimes it’s better to eat the cost than it is to deal with a broken heater.

The only real hiccup is price. The average cost of an AC inspection is $200, and repairs can range up to $850 or more depending on the car and the part that broke. Heating parts are typically a bit cheaper, but heater cores can go up to $1,000 to fix. It’s difficult to say for sure because the issue could be something as simple as a blown fuse, which costs a couple bucks at the most. That’s why it’s recommended you take your car to a trusted mechanic to find out exactly what the deal is.

Yes, you can buy gadgets to make yourself comfortable, but ultimately, unless you want to drive your car around with the windows down to avoid a foggy windshield forever, this is your best bet. The only case where you may not want to is if you’re driving an ancient car, where the repair is going to cost more than the car is worth. In that case, if at all possible, it may be time to start surfing for a new car.

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