Electric coolers offer portability and reliable cooling wherever they can be plugged in. Keep one in the garage, in a camper van, or plug one into a power outlet while driving down the road in any vehicle. They come in a variety of sizes, and some offer surprising features such as remote control and automatic low-battery shutoff.
The portable cooler market is robust with a number of brands offering energy-efficient compressors, dual-zone cooling and freezing, and durable designs. With so many options, including a pile of off-brand models, it’s difficult to determine which ones are truly high-performance coolers. Use our guide to analyze important features and qualities while determining the best electric coolers for your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Dometic CFX3 55 Electric Cooler
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: BougeRV 12V 30-Quart Portable Fridge
- UPGRADE PICK: Ecoflow Glacier Electric Cooler
- BEST CAPACITY: IceCo 95-Quart VL90 ProD Dual-Zone Fridge/Freezer
- BEST PORTABILITY: Engel MR040 AC/DC Portable Fridge/Freezer
- BEST DURABILITY: ARB Zero Fridge/Freezer
- BEST FOR FREEZING: Whynter FM-62DZ Dual-Zone Portable Fridge/Freezer
How We Chose the Best Electric Coolers
The selections on this list are based on important criteria such as compressor quality, build durability, and efficiency. We also looked at features such as dual-zone cooling, freezer capabilities, battery safeguards, and remote controls. The difference between high-quality and budget electric coolers is noticeable in the details and construction materials.
The top-rated electric coolers are user-friendly, reliable, and made to perform in difficult environments. From providing food on overlanding trips to carrying sensitive medical supplies at exact temperatures, electric coolers should function as advertised with minimal energy consumption.
The models on this list were chosen based on extensive research, user feedback, and brand reputation, as well as my own experience overlanding and camping with different brands of coolers. The quality and performance of more expensive models is noticeable, but there are some great budget options as well.
Every electric cooler requires a reliable power source to keep it running. While driving, 12-volt (V) plug-ins in a vehicle suffice, but the coolers need a battery source or hard-wired outlet to run once the vehicle shuts off, so buyers will want to consider how they will use—and subsequently power—an electric cooler.
Our Top Picks
These are the best electric coolers on the market in a variety of categories. From high-end coolers that have the highest performance (and the highest price points) to less expensive but reliable models that will serve budget shoppers, one of these recommendations is likely to suit your needs.
Dometic takes the cake for features, durability, and performance with the CFX3 55-liter electric cooler. The company offers the cooler in a number of sizes, some with single-zone cooling and two larger dual-zone models that are worth considering. The 55-liter model is the only one with an ice maker, however, and that is a welcome and uncommon feature among these coolers. It also operates off 12/24V direct current (DC), 110 to 120V alternating current (AC), or a DC solar connection.
The compressor is designed to be quiet with a D-rated noise class (sub-50 decibels). This makes a big difference for campers sleeping in the same space as the refrigerator. It’s also energy efficient, consuming 1.11 amp hours (Ah) per hour with a 39-degree Fahrenheit setting in a 90-degree Fahrenheit environment. Every bit of efficiency is important for preserving battery power or maximizing energy while running off of solar power.
Dometic has a reputation for intuitive user designs, and this model doesn’t disappoint. It has simple controls with the option to make adjustments via a mobile app remote system that connects via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Additionally, the handles fold for easy storage and maneuverability.
- Capacity: 56 quarts (53 liters)
- Power source: 12/24V DC, 110 to 240V AC, or solar
- Weight: 46.97 pounds
- One of few portable electric coolers that includes an ice maker
- Durable design has recessed latch, fold-down handles, and fenders to protect the unit
- Remote control is possible through a smartphone using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
- Energy-efficient compressor minimizes load on batteries
- Higher end of the price spectrum for electric coolers
Get the Dometic electric cooler at Amazon, REI, or Backcountry.
Investing in the highest-priced electric coolers isn’t an option for everyone. Luckily, there are a few brands offering great coolers at a fraction of the price. BougeRV has made a name for itself in the market with its simple coolers that hit on some nice features.
The 30-quart model is ideal for most users who want reasonable capacity and efficiency. The company makes a smaller 23-quart model, but the limited height restricts the ability to carry tall bottles, milk cartons, and other standard-height beverages. BougeRV also makes a larger model for those who want increased storage capacity.
BougeRV is compressor cooled, so users can expect it to maintain a consistent internal temperature and circulation inside the unit. It replaces a latch system with a handy magnetic lid and offers an eco mode for maximum efficiency when it’s running off battery power. It also comes with a 2-year warranty, and many reviews highlight quality customer service.
- Capacity: 30 quarts
- Power source: 12/24V DC or 110 to 240V AC
- Weight: 22.8 pounds
- Affordable electric cooler for its capacity and available at several retailers
- Reliable compressor offers rapid and consistent cooling
- Energy-efficient operation available when choosing the eco mode setting
- Great temperature range at -7.6 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit
- Compressor is louder at startup, but it quiets down quickly to less than 45 decibels
- Less insulated than high-end units, so it works a little harder to maintain temperature
- Not compatible with direct solar-panel connections
Get the BougeRV electric cooler at Amazon, Walmart, or BougeRV.
The EcoFlow Glacier stands out with its unique, user-friendly features. It also has modular package options designed to accommodate a wide range of users. You can buy the cooler as a stand-alone unit or packaged with a battery and/or solar panel. Buyers also have the option to add detachable wheels and a handle for pulling the wheeled cooler. The cooler’s capacity is up to 38 liters, or about 60 standard drink cans.
The ice maker is especially unique, with the company saying the EcoFlow can freeze cubes in 12 minutes. The ability to generate ice cubes is only offered by a few electric coolers, and this one works especially fast. It also has dual-zone capabilities when using an internal divider. Lastly, the big difference is the internal battery compartment. Most coolers depend on a plug only for external power, but this model can operate on the battery for up to 40 hours if buyers add a battery package.
- Capacity: 40.2 quarts (38 liters)
- Power source: Solar, 12/24V DC or 110 to 220V AC; optional battery
- Weight: 50.7 pounds
- Flexible design with multiple charging options and accessory additions
- Quick-cooling 120-watt compressor can make ice in less than 15 minutes
- Dual control and zones; can freeze down to -13 degrees Fahrenheit
- Optional wheels and pull-handle increase portability of cooler
- Internal battery sold separately or packaged at additional cost
- Solar charging is limited to units with batteries installed
Get the EcoFlow electric cooler at Amazon, Walmart, or EcoFlow.
IceCo has a great lineup of portable refrigerator/freezer coolers, but the VL90 really takes the cake for capacity. With 95 quarts of interior storage, it can hold a lot of beverages and food. It’s also a dual-zone model so users can select different temperature settings simultaneously. Use one side as a freezer (it can reach 0 degrees Fahrenheit) and the other as a refrigerator, just as for a traditional home unit. Users also can set one side at a temperature suitable for produce and the other at a lower setting for ice-cold drinks.
The capacity is ideal for families and groups where large volumes of food and drinks are involved. Hunters and anglers can stay in the field longer by freezing their harvests as well. The compressor-cooled model will consume more energy than smaller coolers due to its size, but it remains efficient and can still run off 12/24V plugs, 110 to 240V outlets, and capable battery systems using inverters with compatible outlets.
- Capacity: 95 quarts
- Power source: 12/24V DC or 110 to 240V AC
- Weight: 72.5 pounds
- Large capacity offers double the volume of many electric cooler models
- SECOP compressor is efficient and capable of reaching low temperatures
- Dual zone maximizes options for temperature settings and food storage
- Battery protection recognizes low voltage and shuts off automatically
- Large size requires more energy to reach and maintain temperature
- With added weight, it is difficult for a single person to move
- Requires extensive space when transporting it inside campers and vehicles
Get the IceCo electric cooler at Amazon, Walmart, or IceCo.
While this model doesn’t have a wheel system, it is made for users on the move. The heavy-duty corner protectors prevent damage while the cooler is hauled between various locations. It also has great handles to grab and lift the cooler quickly. Even when loaded with food and beverages, the cooler requires only one or two people to grip and handle it easily. Still, it has a decent capacity and is tall enough (18.5 inches) to hold beverage containers.
The ABS plastic exterior is high density and corrosion-resistant to help protect the cooler in various environments. It also has dual latches to hold the lid securely. The Engel cooler is designed specifically to handle vibrations and movement while in use. This makes it a great candidate for off-roading and moving between vehicles, boats, campers, and campsites.
- Capacity: 40 quarts
- Power source: 12/24V DC or 110/120V AC
- Weight: 55 pounds
- Tough build with corrosion resistance helps cooler case hold up to transport and the elements
- Has a vibration-resistant compressor for off-road drivers and boaters
- Efficient energy draw of 1 to 2 amps per hour while running
- Stable footings are designed to grip surfaces to keep cooler in place in moving vehicles
- Latches protrude from cooler slightly, increasing odds of catching on objects
- Temperature control is not dual-zone capable
Get the Engel electric cooler at Amazon or Engel Coolers.
ARB specializes in overlanding and off-road gear, and the company’s fridges have long held a reputation for durability. The Zero model continues its evolution of fridges designed to withstand difficult conditions. It has tie-down points for stability in an off-road rig or rocking boat. A durable steel outer casing protects the interior components, and corner protectors absorb contact with hard surfaces.
Available in single- and dual-zone models, the Zero comes in several size options. Single-zone models run as low as 38 quarts. This single-zone model holds 47 quarters and has basket dividers and an internal compartment with a lid to isolate produce and other loose items. Dual-zone models also are available in 73- and 101-quart sizes. The controls are intuitive, and the design is geared toward travelers and outdoor users who are in contact with difficult terrain.
- Capacity: 47 quarts
- Power source: 12/24V DC or 100 to 240V AC
- Weight: 53.1 pounds
- Steel casing is made to withstand abuse and movement
- Interior LED light illuminates the cooler’s contents for easy retrieval of items
- Easy touch control and Bluetooth app available for remote control
- USB outlet is available for charging external devices
- Steel is prone to rust in saltwater environments
- Cup placements on lid have a nonslip design, but they lack depth for securing beverages
Get the ARB electric cooler at Amazon or Walmart.
Dual-zone models on this list, as well as plenty of other electric coolers, can double as freezers. However, the Whynter FM-62DZ stands out from the competition for its deep-freezing capabilities. It reaches freezing temps quickly and can drop to its minimum temperature of -8 degrees Fahrenheit. This model is also a dual-zone electric cooler, so it can deep-freeze in one compartment while operating as a refrigerator in the other.
Overall, the design is simple and spacious, and it’s made with a strong compressor. It’s not cheap, but comparable-capacity dual-zone models often cost much more. The unit is well insulated, reliable, and a great value overall with excellent freezing abilities. It also offers flexibility, with one zone holding 26 quarts while the larger side holds 34 quarts.
- Capacity: 62 quarts
- Power source: 12/24V DC or 115V AC
- Weight: 60 pounds
- Quick freezing and good capacity for safely freezing fish or meat
- Low-voltage sensor alerts user to voltage drop in batteries
- Firm handles support ability to move the cooler between locations
- Compressor is designed to work at inclines of up to 30 degrees
- Deeper freezing temperatures require more power to run the compressor continually
- No mobile app is available for remote control of temperature
Get the Whynter electric cooler at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Walmart.
What to Consider When Choosing an Electric Cooler
When selecting the best electric cooler for hunting, travel, or recreation, most buyers focus on the cooling mechanisms, energy requirements, and size as the primary features. After that, it’s a good idea to move to weight, build quality, durability, and features like temperature controls to help narrow the selections. There are many great options for electric coolers, with some offering unique features. Overall, however, the compressor quality, insulation, and design create a foundation for something that will perform well and last for a long time.
Thermoelectric vs. Compressor
The immediate difference shoppers notice is the significant price difference between thermoelectric and compressor coolers. For that matter, thermoelectric and absorption fridges are less reliable in variable conditions. When external conditions are hot, the ability to cool is severely limited when compared with compressor cooling.
Thermoelectric coolers use conductivity to cool, and they can reduce internal cooler temperatures by about 20 degrees below the ambient temperature. On a hot day at 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the coolers will not be able to reach cooling temperatures suitable for most users. A compressor will cycle as needed to reach and maintain the desired temperature, making it the best option for long-term use.
Size and Capacity
Every user has different amounts of space available and different size requirements within campers and various storage spaces. Consider the amount of food typically carried, and measure the height of common items such as bottles and food storage containers to find the cooler that’ll best suit those needs. Keep in mind that larger units consume more power as well.
Capacity is often measured in quarts, and some manufacturers relate this to can capacity as a reference point. For those who plan on using a cooler for sodas and cans, this is a handy measurement. Otherwise, it’s necessary to measure the products and containers that one uses regularly. A relatively tall cooler is needed to hold full milk cartons, for example.
Every cooler mentioned here is portable, but some are more so than others. The smallest models are lighter and easier to carry between a home, camper, and campsite. If the cooler will remain in a single location, weight is a far less important factor.
When considering portability, look for quality carrying handles to help move the unit. Handles should have no pressure under the weight of a loaded cooler and should be solid and durable. Wheels are also a consideration for users who will move the cooler regularly. Wheels make it much easier for a single person to transport the cooler short distances.
How cold is cold enough? For safe food storage, 40 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Many home refrigerators are set at 38 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit, and a quality electric cooler can match those settings. For ice-cold drinks, dropping the temperature range to 34 degrees to 38 degrees Fahrenheit is really nice on a hot day.
Freezing is another option with modern compressors on portable electric coolers. Many models drop below 0 degrees Fahrenheit for deep freezing. It’s also possible to carry frozen meat, ice cream, and other standard freezer fare at these low temperatures. Alternatively, users can set a cooler to sub-32 degrees Fahrenheit for a short period of time to cool down items quickly before adjusting the cooler to a more typical refrigerator range.
Add-on features make electric coolers more user-friendly. Remote controls allow users to change temperatures and monitor performance from mobile apps. Low-voltage sensors are critical for protecting batteries that supply power. Little things like baskets for organizing food and dividers to separate produce are also useful.
Dual-zone capability is a coveted feature that allows a cooler to operate at two different temperature settings. The feature often comes at a higher price and increases the overall size of the unit. For long-term use that gives users the ability to freeze and cool simultaneously, it’s a great option.
Lastly, durability features are important. Portable coolers are constantly on the move, and they come in contact with hard surfaces. Models with protective bumpers and durable siding will hold up longer for those who are hard users. Those in the off-road and overland community are especially keen on durability features that protect their electric coolers.
The most frequently asked questions are answered here. Learn the difference between cooling mechanisms, and explore the features, costs, and benefits of different cooler styles. Always check the manufacturer specs and research customer reviews to help guide buying decisions.
Q. What are the benefits of an electric cooler?
Electric coolers can run constantly, keeping food and drinks at a desired temperature over an extended period of time. Unlike with traditional coolers, users are not limited by melting ice.
Q. Do coolers use a lot of electricity?
Electric coolers use limited electricity. Compressor size, style, and the electronic systems dictate energy use. Energy use rises during hot weather as well. A common range of use is 1 to 3 amp hours (Ah) per hour.
Q. How much does an electric cooler cost?
Costs range widely, beginning around $100 and exceeding $1,200. Thermoelectric coolers (no compressor) are much cheaper, but they’re also less effective than higher-priced compressor models.
Q. Do 12-volt coolers work well?
Many electric coolers have the option to run off 12-volt power (DC) or 120V (AC). A 12V cooler can work very well and can maintain cold or freezing internal temperatures with a reliable power source (like a running vehicle).
Q. How long can you run an electric cooler?
You can run an electric cooler nonstop with a dedicated power source. When running off a 12V car battery, you should only run the cooler with the vehicle engine engaged. Deep-cycle and lithium batteries can run electric coolers within their charge capabilities.
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