By on May 15, 2019

best portable fridges

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The ability to serve up a cold drink has vexed automakers for years. There have been a few attempts – the icemaker in an early-90s Previa and cooled gloveboxes powered by ducted air conditioning being good examples – but, by and large, most OEMs haven’t put serious thought into providing an in-car fridge. Vacuum cleaners? Sure! But no refrigerators.

And, yes, I am intentionally ignoring the bucks-deluxe solutions from the likes of Rolls and Bentley. We’re a website for commoners, just like all the writers here.

Fortunately, the aftermarket has stepped in to offer some solutions to this problem. There are a myriad of companies building portable mini fridges designed to run off 110V and 12V power, allowing the things to work away in a car’s cargo area while the family circus travels down the road to Disneyland.

We’ve chosen eight options and presented them here. Some of them made the cut on price, a few on innovation, and one because it simply looked cool – pun intended.

(Editor’s note: As noted above, this post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)


1. Editor’s Pick: Gourmia Mini Fridge Cooler & Warmer with Bluetooth Speaker

gourmia gmf668 thermoelectric mini fridge cooler and warmer

Music and cold, erm, beverages. Those two things go together like bacon and eggs. This oversquare mini fridge has a Bluetooth speaker integrated right into the door. Yes, these are the types of features which appeal to your author. This lightweight 6-can mini cooler & warmer features a removable shelf, self-locking latch, and carry handle — all designed for easy portability.

Like most of the units on this list, this fridge can cool or warm its contents. This one is able to chill up to 32°F below ambient temperature or warm up to 150°F (in an ambient temperature of 75°). A well-insulated interior holds temperature even after unplugged. Speaking of, this thing includes adapters for both AC wall outlets and DC cigarette lighters.

Pros: Cools or warms items, compact, zomg it has a speaker

Cons: Only available in one color

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2. Funky Style: Cooluli K10LGA Mini Fridge Americana Retro

cooluli k10lga mini fridge

Fans of the retro-future Fallout franchise (*raises hand*) will appreciate the exterior design of this mini fridge. Looking for all the world like something unearthed from Vault 111, this thermo-electric cooler/warmer doubles as a neat bit of Coca-Cola memorabilia. The seller makes a claim of a unique semiconductor operation, making it energy-efficient and ultra-quiet.

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It is rated to cool items down to: 35° – 40° below ambient temperature, which is slightly better performance than your author’s selection listed above. On an internal thermostat, it’ll warm up to about 150 degrees. The whole thing weighs about 10 pounds and measures roughly a foot square but with a couple extra inches of height.

Pros: Looks bloody cool, chills a bit colder than others

Cons: Nostalgia costs money

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3. Affordable Option: Acando Portable Fridge & Warmer

acando panda blue mini fridge

At less than thirty bucks, this strangely styled mini fridge wins our ‘most affordable’ awards. As with most things in life, you seem to get what you pay for as this cheaper-than-most option is a lot heavier than other units of equivalent size. Nearly doubly as heavy, in fact. A dearth of product reviews and feedback are also reason to give pause.

What little information is available is a mix of good and bad, with one customer reporting a fan noisier than a Sea King at take-off. That same customer said that, with a bit of persuasion, the fan’s cover was coaxed into a shape approximating its intended shape, silencing the racket. This does not speak well of overall quality.

Pros: Cheaper than the drinks you’ll store in it

Cons: Hope you like panda bears

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4. Uber Chill Mini Fridge

uber appliance uber chill mini fridge

No, the oft-maligned ride hailing service that’s about to offer an IPO hasn’t suddenly gotten into the mini fridge business. This company is actually headquartered in Ohio, where they supply a website with plenty of consumer information and documents about the products they sell. This is reassuring in an age where many online products are sold from behind a veil of secrecy.

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As for the fridge, it’s available in a variety of natty colors and is big enough to fit half a dozen pop cans or four bottles of water. This is roughly analogous to everything else on this list. It can run off either a 110V or 12V power source, meaning thirsty co-eds can cart the thing from their hooptie to their dorm room in one fell swoop.

Pros: Great company website with plenty of resources, reasonably priced

Cons: Smaller dimensions than some other mini fridges

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5. Alpicool C15 Portable Refrigerator

alpicool c15 portable refrigerator

This fridge can actually act as a freezer, deep chilling down to -4F without the need for any ice, which makes it unique in the world of portable refrigerators. It is also much larger than most of the other units on this list, able to swallow 20 cans of soda in its 16 quart space. Exterior dimensions put the thing at about two feet long by a foot high and wide.

Well over a hundred reviews have averaged out to a four-star rating, which is confidence inspiring to potential buyers. The ad states this fridge has reliable sealing properties and is made with high density foam insulation, properties which allow it to achieve and maintain those super-cold temperatures.

Pros: Acts as a freezer, can hold plenty of perishables

Cons: Big footprint

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6. Engel AC/DC Portable Dual Voltage Fridge/Freezer

engel ac/dc portable dual voltage fridge freezer

You know we had to place an extreme choice on this list, right? This fridge/freezer is more along the lines of what a medical company would use to transport delicate cargo but, hey, who doesn’t need to move body parts every now and then? Nobody? Oh, okay.

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Marketed as a solution for marine or overlanding applications, the Engel fridge is a heavy duty rig that’ll outstrip the needs of most people. It’s nearly a foot long, weighs a hundred pounds, and costs a fortune. But when you’re overlanding – or carrying medical supplies – you’ll probably want all the performance you can get. For that, this unit delivers.

Pros: Heaviest of the heavy-duty, big compressor, super chilling capacity

Cons: Mahoosively expensive

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7. Tibek Electric Cooler and Warmer

tibek mini fridge electric cooler and warmer

Bearing a name ever-so-close to that of the longtime Jeopardy host, this mini fridge has a lockable handle and looks a lot like a standard cooler. This thing is both an electric cooler and warmer, making it great for use in the summer or winter. This big’un has a 27.5 quart capacity so it can holds up to 33 tins of soda or 6 two-liter bottles.

Maximum cooling operates to 50 F below ambient temperature with maximum warming rising to about 158 F. This car refrigerator specially built with an Energy-efficient thermoelectric cooling system with no compressor, to minimize the vibration effect and noise, it operates very quietly.

Pros: Large capacity, relatively lightweight, locking handle prevents door from bouncing open

Cons: Large capacity means a large size

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8. Cooluli Classic Compact Cooler/Warmer

cooluli classic 4-liter compact cooler warmer mini fridge

This neat little guy (selected in bright red, of course) sports a matte finish and too-cool rounded edges. Uniquely, along with the traditional forms of electricity, it can also be powered with a minimum 2A power bank. Its seller is careful to note that it is environmentally friendly, using no refrigerants or Freon.

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Plenty of customer feedback is provided on the listing, including a few videos which describe a quiet fan on the unit and the ability to chill drinks even when simply plugged into a USB-ported lithium-ion battery recharging pack like the ones you’d normally use to juice your phone. Reviews are overwhelmingly positive with the occasional caveat that one should have reasonable expectations about its cooling power in hundred degree weather conditions.

Pros: Works off USB, compact size, very quiet

Cons: A tad expensive

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Stay Chill, Man: As with any accessory you buy for your car, be sure the thing is securely installed before hitting the road. This goes double for the likes of a mini fridge which could conceivably flail about the cabin in a crash and hurt someone. And it goes without saying that a person probably shouldn’t store alcohol in these things while on the road if it’s within reach of the driver.

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This may explain why automakers are hesitant to invest too much scratch into car-based drink solutions, not to mention the space these things consume. Whatever you choose to cool, or heat, in these mini fridges, be sure to do it safely.

[Images provided by the manufacturer, featured image © Shutterstock.com / LightField Studios]

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