Top 8 Best Portable Fridges
By | Last updated: February 12, 2021
best portable fridges

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 relatively few refrigerators.

And, yes, I am intentionally ignoring the bucks-deluxe solutions from the likes of Rolls and Bentley. We’re all commoners 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.

1. Editor’s Pick: Gourmia Thermoelectric Mini Fridge with Bluetooth Speaker

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.

All this make it our personal pick amongst a solid crop of the best portable fridges.

Pros/Cools or warms items, compact, zomg it has a speaker
Cons/Only available in one color
Bottom Line/One product for many functions

2. Funky Style: Cooluli Americana Retro 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.

ALSO SEE: Buyers Guide: The 8 Best Windshield Wipers You Can Buy

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 neat, chills a bit colder than others
Cons/Nostalgia isn't overly cheap
Bottom Line/Be the envy of Fallout 4 fans

3. Budget Pick: Frigidaire Mini Portable Compact Fridge

For once, the budget pick actually comes from a recognized brand name. Costing not much more than some of the drinks you’ll pack into its six 12oz can capacity, this little red fridge pulls off the triumvirate of looking neat while garnering good ratings and being affordable.

The item itself measures 10 inches tall and deep, spanning about 7 inches across. This isn’t huge, and the fridge seems designed solely for 12oz cans. However, the seller asserts there is a removable shelf inside, so fitting a few snacks that aren’t shaped like a Silver Bullet might actually be possible.

Pros/Very affordable, actually looks kinda retro cool
Cons/Primarily made to cool canned drinks
Bottom Line/Stay hydrated on a budget

4. 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.

ALSO SEE: Buyers Guide: Top 8 Best LED Headlights for Your Car

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
Bottom Line/Insecure bros will point out this is marketed as a makeup fridge

5. 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
Bottom Line/Great for overlanding

6. Engel 22-quart AC/DC Portable 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.

ALSO SEE: Buyers Guide: Top 9 Best HID Headlight Bulbs for Your Car’s Next Upgrade

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
Bottom Line/You get what you pay for

7. Coleman PowerChill - 40 quart

It’d be difficult to assemble a list of coolers without including something from Coleman. After all, their lineup of camping equipment is legendary, to the point where many people refer to a gas-fired portable cooker as a ‘Coleman stove’. When your brand turns into a descriptor (Jacuzzi, Zamboni, and so forth), you know you’ve made it as a company.

This versatile hot/cold thermoelectric cooler keeps food items at a set temperature and is, in fact, able to keep contents up to 40 degrees colder or warmer than its surroundings. An 8-foot power cord allows you to power the cooler with a car or boat outlet, while its 44 can capacity should be enough for an evening with yer buddies.

Pros/Huge volume of storage, known brand, good ratings
Cons/More expensive than others
Bottom Line/The name's been around forever for a reason

8. Cooluli Classic 4 Liter Compact 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.

ALSO SEE: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Tonneau Covers for Your Truck

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
Bottom Line/The USB power is appealing

Mini Fridge FAQs

 

Why do I need one of these?

Maybe you don’t. But if you do any amount of socially-distant tailgating or enjoy a bit of off-grid camping, one of these mini-fridges can make life a heckuva lot more comfortable. People who enjoy the overlanding lifestyle (even the casual dabbler) will benefit from having a few cold drinks – or temperature-appropriate food – within easy reach.

ALSO SEE: Turn Down For Watt: Best Portable Car Jump Starters

How big should I go?

Depends on your needs. Some of the mini-fridges on this list are only good for six 12oz cans or a few snacks (not both, it must be said). Some others can swallow nearly four dozen cans or enough food to feed a small army. Assess your needs, measure your space, and buy accordingly.

Can these fridges really keep stuff cold OR warm?

Some can, absolutely. In the same concept that a Thermos (there’s another example of a brand name making the big time) can keep hot liquid hot and cold liquid cold, the dual-action fridges attempt the same trick using science and a bit of technology. Of course, bigger and more expensive professional units will probably do this job more effectively than cheap ones. In either case, it sure beats storing your drinks in the snow or your coffee in a ray of sunshine.


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: LightField Studios / ShutterStock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

4 Comments on “Buyer’s Guide: The Best Portable Fridges...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Lots of badge engineering in the first 4 entries….

    My portable fridge experience dates to 2010 (perhaps ancient history now), but the unit I got then has a thermo-electric cooler and makes similar claims about cooling capacity (~40 F below ambient).

    My advice: I’d go for a unit with an actual compressor. TE units can only cool so much, and a drink that is ‘chilled’ to 55 F when it’s 95 F outside is pretty bad, and that’s not even cool enough to keep milk fresh.

    That Alpicool unit looks promising for $169 and up. No way I’m going for the $840 Engel (which really weighs 38 lbs).

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The Engels, ARBs, National Lunas and such may cost more, but are also reliable, thermostable and functional enough to serve as secondary (or I suppose even primary) units when at home. As well as serve as a cabin/second home/boat, gamefreezer after a hunt etc. unit. They’re one of those things you buy, and then almost inevitably keep finding new uses for as time goes by.

  • avatar
    ajla

    If you can afford to have friends then you can afford a luxury cooler.

  • avatar
    Sobro

    Besides not being great chillers in hot weather, thermoelectric coolers become freezers when left outdoors in sub-60 degree weather. I am on my second one but learned my lesson already. And my newer one’s manufacturer decided that nobody flips the power supply plug’s polarity on purpose to make it a food warmer so disabled that option with a one-way plug.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.