Best Portable Car Heaters 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks
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Whether for use in an emergency or just as your primary heater, a portable car heater can be the product that you didn’t know you needed. You can use it to defog your windshield faster, or you can defrost yourself for the same reason. In these reviews, we’ll go over five portable car heaters that we think are worth your time and attention.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
The 5 Best Portable Car Heaters – 2020
1. ANCROWN Car Heater – Best Overall
This heater from Ancrown pulls in cold air and turns it into hot air and does so very quickly. When placed on your dash, you can use this to heat whatever you’d like, as it is mounted on a 360-degree swivel. You can defrost your windshield and then either keep the window defrosted or turn the heater’s attention to you, breaking you out of your own freeze. This can also work wonderfully in tandem with your car’s heater, as you can keep yourself warm while waiting for the window to defrost, or vice versa.
Not only is this a heater, but it can work as an AC unit as well, making it appropriate for all seasons. It works as a cooling unit the exact same way it works as a heating unit: It draws in the hot air and turns it into cold air.
The manufacturer boasts that this product is much more efficient at defrosting than it is at heating up a whole car. Defrosting takes a matter of moments, while heating up the car could take a while. That is why we recommend that if you have the luxury of doing so, use this along with your car heater.
This device requires simple setup. Plug it into your 12V port, and then choose the setting you want. Don’t worry about this device overheating, as it is made with over-temperature, overvoltage, and overcurrent protection. It should be noted, however, that this product will produce a noticeable amount of noise.
Those who have used this portable heater from Ancrown have found that it works wonderfully as a defogger, but less so as a car heater and de-icer. There have also been reports of poor durability.
2. Tonha Portable Car Heater – Best Value
When you start your car in the dead of winter and blast the heat to defrost/warm it up, this is what is called a hypothermic start and eventually wears down your engine. You can prevent some of that wear and tear with a portable heater to defrost your windows.
Tonha has made a dual-use portable heater/cooler that functions similarly to our top pick. It brings in air and then converts it. In the summer, it goes from hot to cold and in the winter, cold to hot. Tonha claims that its portable car heater can defrost your windshield in 60 seconds, which is quicker than waiting for your hypothermic car to do it. This heater was designed to remove fog, as well as heavier stuff like snow. You can peacefully watch it melt away instead of standing in the cold with a window scraper in your hand. Not only will this product clear your windshield, but it will keep it clear to ensure safe driving.
The Tonha portable car heater is made with three fans in the front, so you have three concentrated blasts of air. This heater also offers concentrated blasts of heat but is capable of heating up your car with a wide blast as well. The center fan offers two functions: The fan helps convert the air, but it also prevents this product from overheating. Unlike our top pick, this product does not offer functionality that will keep it from overworking itself, but Tonha is confident that they have made a product built to last.
Using it is simple. Once plugged into your 12V car adapter, you are good to go. The rotary holder makes adjusting this product as easy as adjusting your car vent.
In an ideal world, our cars would heat up instantly and we wouldn’t need portable heaters, but as it is, these products are for those who have cars that heat up really slowly or not at all. Most agree that this is good for defogging but struggles with snow and has a hard time with ice. There have been reports of this overheating and starting to smoke. Even with that being the case, we think that this is the best portable car heater for the money.
3. Zerostart Interior Car Warmer – Premium Choice
The Zerostart Interior Car Warmer isn’t as easy to use as the first two items on our list, but it is the most effective, for better or worse. First, the installation isn’t as simple as plugging it in, and you might even need professional help getting this into your car. Second, you might need to make further modifications to this and/or your car once installed, as this device can get very hot.
That being said, this heater absolutely does its job. While the portable heaters that plug into 12V outlets are good for defogging but not necessarily warming up your car, this model has the power to keep your whole car warm. This little heater has 900 watts of power, making the heat output not so little.
We’ve heard testimonials from people who live in harsh winter conditions about the effectiveness of this device. We’ve also heard from emergency responders who swear by it. Its reputation is that it works quickly and it works well. One of the modifications you could make is to set this heater to a timer, so when you get in your car in the morning, the window is already defrosted and the cabin already heated.
Other modifications would be for your safety. As previously noted, this device gets really hot. Those familiar with it suggest either insulating it in some way, so there is somewhere for the heat to escape to, or keeping it at least three feet away from anything susceptible to melting, which could be difficult depending on the amount of space you have.
This heater is a lifesaver in the winter, but make sure you take the proper precautions so you don’t wind up melting a bunch of stuff.
4. H-RunY Portable Car Heater
This portable car heater from H-Run Y works the same as the first two on our list. It brings in air and then converts it to the temperature that you desire. This device can be used in both the summer and winter, but you might find it most useful in the winter for defrosting your windows.
This product was designed with functionality in mind, but it has a futuristic look that makes your car feel cooler (pun not intended). While this product boasts a concentrated but wide airflow, the main area of effectiveness is being able to defrost your car. The mount allows you to quickly change between defrosting your window and defrosting yourself. With 360-degree maneuverability, you can aim this heater wherever you like. This can be especially nice on long car trips where one person prefers a certain amount of heat, while the other prefers a different amount.
Setting up for this product is incredibly simple. A piece of removable tape will go on your dash, and then you mount the heater right on top. This device plugs into your 12V outlet. To make this product more effective, H-Run Y has updated this heater for 2020, making the copper wiring longer so you can move this heater around to get the most out of it. While this product is similar to our first two, it does have a bigger fan.
There is a strong love/hate for this product among those who have used it. Those who love it say that it is the perfect solution for when the car heater breaks down and you can’t get it fixed. Those who hate it will tell you that it is the reason that some of their cars are broken. There have indeed been reports of this blowing out the 12V charger, causing a notable amount of damage. Because of this, we’d argue that this is not the most dependable device.
5. DUTISON Portable Car Heater
This portable heater looks like it belongs in one of the engine rooms of the Death Star, which is to say that it is really cool looking, albeit a bit evil.
This is another heater that plugs into your 12V socket and is meant to work for both the summer and winter. Of all the other products we’ve reviewed, this is the only one with a handle, so you don’t burn yourself when changing the orientation of the heater. This portable heater also comes with safety features that are quite nice. This has a built-in fuse so it won’t blow your 12V power supply, and it comes with an auto power-off feature.
This product has the largest air inlet of the products on our list so far, but for one of the smaller outlets. This means you get more concentrated heat, but less car heating ability.
Dutison can join the club with H-RunY because this is another product that receives either plenty of praise or lots of loathing. Those who love this product seem to find practical ways of using it, such as a rear window defroster. Those who do not like it say that it is unable to heat their whole car. Some claim that when the heater is supposed to be getting hot, it is actually the power supply that is burning up. If left unattended, that could be bad news.
This product comes with a 30-day warranty.
Even for those who have cars with well-functioning heating systems, a separate heater might not be a bad investment, especially if you live in a particularly frosty region of the world. Fortunately, the world of portable car heaters isn’t quite as nuanced as some other markets, though there are a few things you should consider. Let’s go over them.
If the reason you are buying a portable car heater is that your car’s heating system is broken, you will probably want to invest in a more substantial car heater, which in the end, might mean just getting your car fixed. Portable heaters that are powered through the 12V sockets in a car are wonderful for defrosting, but they don’t go very far in heating your whole car.
At the same time, the more expensive heaters are not as easy to install (you might have to hire a professional) and might also require modifications, which means spending even more money. Those who have the more expensive car heaters swear by them, but you might want to do price checks before you make the leap.
A nice little add-on
We like the idea of using the 12V portable heaters as rear window defrosters, especially for cars that aren’t equipped to handle defrosting the back window.
While a portable car heater just might be the quick fix you need, there are certain ones that come with risks. Some are known to overheat, while others can blow fuses in your car. The more expensive models can even be a risk, as they generate a large amount of heat. You’ll want to do research first to assess the risk of the heater you are buying. There are heaters that have auto shut-offs and internal fuses.
While portable car heaters can be affordable, it still isn’t a bad idea to check for a warranty. These little heat-generating devices can be quite erratic, and you never know if you are going to get one that lasts for two years or two days. Either way, t’s best to make sure that you are covered.
The market for portable car heaters isn’t too big, but there’s enough risk that you should have an idea of what you are doing before you buy. Luckily, there are good products out there, as we have highlighted in these reviews. If you need a quick defrosting, you can’t go wrong with our top pick from Ancrown, but if you are looking for the full experience and a car that is always warm, we recommend our premium pick from Zerostart. Whatever you choose, we wish you warmth!
Featured Image: Portable Car Heater/ANCROWN, Amazon