Best Power Inverters for Your Car: Plugging Away

Vivek Nayyar
by Vivek Nayyar

Top 8 Best Power Inverters

best power inverters for your car plugging away

To address the demand for electrons, carmakers have been busy stuffing their machines with USB ports and 120V “household” outlets. Not every car gets it right, with some offering up only a single USB port to placate the yowling masses or placing the outlet in a wholly inconvenient location.

Or, simply, your ride is old enough not to have any of these gee-whiz conveniences. Those of us choosing to roll around in an ’96 Town Car will find it difficult to plug in, as will gearheads who take their cherry 1970 Chevy Chevelle to the local car show. Even those with an Integra Type R in their garage must do without mobile power.

Power inverters have been around for years, long before smartphones were surgically attached to us all. Back then they were largely the domain of people who spent a lot of time on the road. Today, with all hands looking for a place to plug in – and not all cars providing the tools to do so – we thought it a good idea to round up a few examples of the best power inverters.

Table of Contents

1. Editor's Choice: Jackery Portable Power Station

Your author is placing this unit at the head table for a several reasons, not the least of which is this type of power inverter is the same one on which he relies for his own use. The crew at Jackery have introduced several new battery sizes to their lineup, up to 1.5kW, with this 200W unit marking one of their entry-level offerings.

It isn't a power inverter in a totally traditional sense like others on this list. Rather, think of it as a portable power bank or small electric generator that can help keep your electric tools or tablets powered while you're on the move. It can be topped off using a car's 12V system (there's the inverter part of its equation) or via Jackery solar panels. Owners can also plug it into a household outlet before they hit the road.

Pros

  • Pure sine wave output, ample portable power, solar capabilities

Cons

  • Bulky compared to small inverters, larger upfront cost

Bottom Line

  • Editor's Pick for best Power Inverter for your car (or home)

Your author is placing this unit at the head table for a several reasons, not the least of which is this type of power inverter is the same one on which he relies for his own use. The crew at Jackery have introduced several new battery sizes to their lineup, up to 1.5kW, with this 200W unit marking one of their entry-level offerings.

It isn't a power inverter in a totally traditional sense like others on this list. Rather, think of it as a portable power bank or small electric generator that can help keep your electric tools or tablets powered while you're on the move. It can be topped off using a car's 12V system (there's the inverter part of its equation) or via Jackery solar panels. Owners can also plug it into a household outlet before they hit the road.

2. Heavy Duty Option: Kinverch 2000W Continuous/ 4000W Peak Power Inverter

This brute of an inverter provides 2000W continuous and 4000W peak DC to AC power, making the thing perfect for vacations, road trips, or even a spot of camping. With 3 AC outlets and one 2A USB charging port, there are plenty of opportunities to plug in.

Eight internal fuses and a pair of cooling fans should help this unit from going pop, while the included wiring should be more than enough to get the party started. It isn't clear if the optional Bluetooth controller consumes the sole USB port, however.

Pros

  • Plenty of power

Cons

  • Only 1 USB port

Bottom Line

  • No shortage of juice with this inverter

This brute of an inverter provides 2000W continuous and 4000W peak DC to AC power, making the thing perfect for vacations, road trips, or even a spot of camping. With 3 AC outlets and one 2A USB charging port, there are plenty of opportunities to plug in.

Eight internal fuses and a pair of cooling fans should help this unit from going pop, while the included wiring should be more than enough to get the party started. It isn't clear if the optional Bluetooth controller consumes the sole USB port, however.

3. Budget Choice: soyond 1 Red 150W Car Power Inverter

If all you need is a quick hit of power, this cheap inverter may be just the ticket. Priced at just over fifteen bucks, this diminutive 150W unit promises to charge up items via two USB ports and an AC outlet. Also of note: its 12V power cord, through which it draws its power from a cigarette lighter, is long enough to run towards the rear of the car to placate backseat urchins.

A built-in fuse and integrated low-noise cooling fan prevent short circuits, allegedly protecting the thing from overheating while also extending the inverter’s life. Your author is always wary of buying any electronic device that is the cheapest in its class – I prefer not to set my own car on fire – but user reviews are positive based on an acceptable sample size.

Pros

  • Affordable, smaller than a pack of smokes

Cons

  • Don’t forget to unplug when it’s not in use

Bottom Line

  • Best option for those shopping on a budget

If all you need is a quick hit of power, this cheap inverter may be just the ticket. Priced at just over fifteen bucks, this diminutive 150W unit promises to charge up items via two USB ports and an AC outlet. Also of note: its 12V power cord, through which it draws its power from a cigarette lighter, is long enough to run towards the rear of the car to placate backseat urchins.

A built-in fuse and integrated low-noise cooling fan prevent short circuits, allegedly protecting the thing from overheating while also extending the inverter’s life. Your author is always wary of buying any electronic device that is the cheapest in its class – I prefer not to set my own car on fire – but user reviews are positive based on an acceptable sample size.

4. BESTEK 300Watt Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter

There’s plenty of debate as to whether sensitive electronic equipment need a pure sine wave inverter instead of a traditional modified sine wave unit. What we can tell you is this: it never hurts to have an extra ounce of prevention. Pure sine wave units allege to provide a more stable source of power, free of the bumps and surges which accompany the power production some other inverters. We’ll leave that bit of research up to you.

The USB ports on this unit are said to heave out a notable 2.4A, meaning there should be no problem if youngsters choose to have their device plugged in while using it (draining a battery faster than it is being replenished is a very real possibility with some chargers). Heat dissipation is mentioned several times in the bumf, with the company stressing its built-in 40A fuse and ‘smart’ fan design.

Pros

  • Quick charging, good brand name, convenient placement of ports

Cons

  • "Auto-detect" USBs may not put out power if your device is completely flat

Bottom Line

  • If you want to brag about having a pure sine wave power inverter

There’s plenty of debate as to whether sensitive electronic equipment need a pure sine wave inverter instead of a traditional modified sine wave unit. What we can tell you is this: it never hurts to have an extra ounce of prevention. Pure sine wave units allege to provide a more stable source of power, free of the bumps and surges which accompany the power production some other inverters. We’ll leave that bit of research up to you.

The USB ports on this unit are said to heave out a notable 2.4A, meaning there should be no problem if youngsters choose to have their device plugged in while using it (draining a battery faster than it is being replenished is a very real possibility with some chargers). Heat dissipation is mentioned several times in the bumf, with the company stressing its built-in 40A fuse and ‘smart’ fan design.

5. POTEK 750W Power Inverter

Even if its brand sounds like the surname of a Star Trek ambassador, this unit promises a big punch. It can be connected to a car using either a cigarette lighter adapter or the included alligator clips. Those latter units are super handy, meaning this inverter isn't bound to the confines of a modern car.

A built-in fuse protects your device, while the USB port keeps people happy when trying to charge a smartphone. There are also two traditional house-type outlets for plugging in a laptop or your margarita maker (just kidding: don't use that on the road - it'll make a mess).

Pros

  • Big power output, fusable links, alligator clips

Cons

  • Not the cheapest option

Bottom Line

  • Versatile and lightweight

Even if its brand sounds like the surname of a Star Trek ambassador, this unit promises a big punch. It can be connected to a car using either a cigarette lighter adapter or the included alligator clips. Those latter units are super handy, meaning this inverter isn't bound to the confines of a modern car.

A built-in fuse protects your device, while the USB port keeps people happy when trying to charge a smartphone. There are also two traditional house-type outlets for plugging in a laptop or your margarita maker (just kidding: don't use that on the road - it'll make a mess).

6. BESTEK 150W Power Inverter

This option looks hella inappropriate for those of us with juvenile minds. That, erm, appendage sticking straight up is the power point itself - meaning there are no cords to run between the inverter and your car's 12V lighter socket. This can be good or bad, depending on the location of that socket.

There are two USB ports, one promising a 2.1A fast charge and the other being a standard 1A plug. There is also an AC 110V port for laptop chargers and the like. Despite its small size, the seller asserts there is actually a cooling fan built into the thing to help the works from getting too hot.

Pros

  • Extremely compact, no messy cords

Cons

  • Useless if the car's 12V port is in a weird sport

Bottom Line

  • Measure twice, buy once

This option looks hella inappropriate for those of us with juvenile minds. That, erm, appendage sticking straight up is the power point itself - meaning there are no cords to run between the inverter and your car's 12V lighter socket. This can be good or bad, depending on the location of that socket.

There are two USB ports, one promising a 2.1A fast charge and the other being a standard 1A plug. There is also an AC 110V port for laptop chargers and the like. Despite its small size, the seller asserts there is actually a cooling fan built into the thing to help the works from getting too hot.

7. Giandel 5000W Heavy Duty Power Inverter

If the 2000W unit at the top of this post is a heavy duty unit, then this 5000W bad boy can be classified as the super duper inverter on our list of the best power inverters. It is connected directly to a 12V battery, so be sure to invest in heavy gauge wiring if you need more than what’s included in the kit. There is also a weirdo remote ‘on/off’ switch that physically connects to the unit. Imagine this inverter being mounted out of sight under a workbench in a panel van and the remote placed within easy reach in the truck cab to get a visual of why this is important.

There are four AC outlets but only a single USB port. Given this unit’s intended purpose, that’s probably okay. Be forewarned that this Giandel weighs 22 pounds and well over a foot in length, longer than the entire cord on some portable units.

Pros

  • Great for heavy electrical demands, good reviews about both product and service

Cons

  • Heavy, bloody expensive

Bottom Line

  • Who needs a 5000w power inverter? You do!

If the 2000W unit at the top of this post is a heavy duty unit, then this 5000W bad boy can be classified as the super duper inverter on our list of the best power inverters. It is connected directly to a 12V battery, so be sure to invest in heavy gauge wiring if you need more than what’s included in the kit. There is also a weirdo remote ‘on/off’ switch that physically connects to the unit. Imagine this inverter being mounted out of sight under a workbench in a panel van and the remote placed within easy reach in the truck cab to get a visual of why this is important.

There are four AC outlets but only a single USB port. Given this unit’s intended purpose, that’s probably okay. Be forewarned that this Giandel weighs 22 pounds and well over a foot in length, longer than the entire cord on some portable units.

8. BESTEK 300W Power Inverter

Rounding out this octet of power inverters is this 300W unit from a familiar brand. For many, selecting an inverter which is neither the smallest nor biggest is a smart move, especially if one is unsure of their future power needs. Road trips? Camping? This inverter will likely do the trick with breathing room to spare.

Two 110V AC outlets are present for charging larger devices such as laptops and tablets, while a pair of USB charging ports rated up to 2.4A take car of USB compatible devices. Its footprint is about the size of a big iPhone, though the inverter is much thicker. A 40 amp fuse and durable metal housing should keep the thing robust enough to survive even the most, erm, active of families.

Pros

  • 300W output in a small package, affordable

Cons

  • A unit this size should have more than 2 USB ports

Bottom Line

  • Covers all your bases for a good price

Rounding out this octet of power inverters is this 300W unit from a familiar brand. For many, selecting an inverter which is neither the smallest nor biggest is a smart move, especially if one is unsure of their future power needs. Road trips? Camping? This inverter will likely do the trick with breathing room to spare.

Two 110V AC outlets are present for charging larger devices such as laptops and tablets, while a pair of USB charging ports rated up to 2.4A take car of USB compatible devices. Its footprint is about the size of a big iPhone, though the inverter is much thicker. A 40 amp fuse and durable metal housing should keep the thing robust enough to survive even the most, erm, active of families.

FAQs

What is the best inverter for a car?

A couple of brands and products that many consumers appreciate (according to Amazon reviews) are:

BESTEK 300W Power Inverter ( Buy here!)

This power inverter is tagged as a ‘Best Seller’ on Amazon with more than 4.5-star ratings from 25.5K+ users.

BESTEK 75W Power Inverter ( Buy here!)

Placed under the Amazon’s Choice category, this power inverter is suitable for small appliances and smart devices.

SUPERONE 150W Car Power Inverter ( Buy here!)

A bit more powerful than the previous one, this power inverter is also placed under the Amazon’s Choice category and can run regular electronic devices.

How big of a power inverter do I need for my car?

The size of a power inverter that you should get majorly depends on your car type, how powerful the battery is, and what you want to use the inverter for. Nevertheless, you must always consider picking an inverter that can handle 10 to 20 percent more power than you expect. For instance, if you want to charge smart devices, laptops, etc., a 200W inverter should do the job. However, it would be a good idea to get one that can run the appliances of up to 250 to 300 watts.

Are power inverters safe for cars?

As long as you are using power inverters in a proper way, i.e., as suggested by the vendors and professionals, their impact on the car battery is almost negligible. Some recommendations while picking and using a power inverter are listed below:

Power Efficiency

Make sure to choose an inverter with more power than you expect to consume. This is because you never know when you need more energy for unexpected equipment. For instance, if you are planning to charge your smartphones and run the car’s air conditioning, consider getting a power inverter that can handle the consumption of a portable car refrigerator along with those appliances as well. This will give you some additional tolerance during your long journeys.

Placement

Consider storing the inverter somewhere that is dry and well-ventilated. This will significantly reduce its chances of catching fire or getting damaged. You should also avoid using it as a stand for petty items such as oil cans, boxes, etc.

Right Temperature

To avoid overheating and other damages, it is not advisable to use a power inverter if the temperature is 40 degrees or more, or if placed somewhere near heated vents.

Right Appliances

Although you might have bought the inverter for high-consumption appliances or devices, connecting these pieces of equipment too frequently might deteriorate the inverter and could be harmful to the battery in the long run as well.

Usage

You should always use the power inverter when the engine is on and running. Using it with the engine turned off would put a direct load on the battery and it will deteriorate comparatively sooner.

How do I choose an inverter for my car?

The answer depends on what appliances or devices you want to run. That said, it would be a good idea to check how many watts of power it produces and where it would get its power supply from. You can check the following list to get a basic idea of energy consumption:

300 Watts – These inverters can connect to a 12 Volt plug for a power source and can be used to run computers, LED televisions, or other pieces of equipment that consume almost similar power.

600 Watts – These too can connect to a 12 Volt plug for energy source but can be used to run the devices and appliances that consume a bit more power, such as large-screen televisions, power tools (up to 5 amps), etc.

1750 Watts – These power inverters must be connected directly to the battery for the power source and can be used to run appliances like toasters, microwave ovens, hairdryers, etc.

3000 Watts – These must also be connected directly to the battery. Because such inverters are quite powerful, you can connect almost all types of domestic appliances and devices to them.

The above figures are merely for reference. Many brands produce inverters that are less or more powerful than those that are listed above. Considering the mentioned specifications, you can decide which power inverter is best for you according to your car type and requirements.

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: 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.)

[Main photo credit: admin_design / ShutterStock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

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2 of 5 comments
  • Scottcom36 Scottcom36 on Apr 16, 2021

    I've had #4 almost two years. Works great, reasonably quiet.

  • Imagefont Imagefont on Apr 16, 2021

    A pure sine wave inverter is worth it, and these days they’re very reasonable. Some electronics will not tolerate the awful spectrum of harmonics from a square wave inverter.

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