Best Power Inverter For Car (2021’s Buying Guide]

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At the most basic level, AC power is the current that you get from your plug sockets at home, and DC power is used by batteries.

Therefore, car batteries run on DC power, whereas most consumer electronics use AC power.

As a result, if you want to use these devices on the go, then you'll need something called a 'car power inverter,' so that the DC current can be changed to AC, and thus be compatible with your electronics.

How Does an Automotive Power Inverter Work?

For you to fully understand how a power inverter works, you first need to know the difference between AC and DC power. To keep it simple, AC is the type of power that runs in your house that you can get from electric outlets. On the other hand, DC is provided by batteries.

Because of this, most, if not all, of your appliances and devices at home run on AC power. This becomes a problem if you wish to have the same appliances in your car. After all, your car’s electricity runs on battery or DC power.

This is where a power inverter, but what is it really? What can do it, and how does it work exactly? We don’t want to bore you with its technicalities, so we’ll try to keep this as simple as we can.

Basically, an inverter translates the unidirectional power or DC power that comes from your car’s batteries and turns it into an alternating current or AC. To do this, the inverter uses electromagnetism.

Electromagnetism redirects the currents in opposite directions at an extremely rapid rate. Because of this, instead of being unidirectional or DC, the power that comes from your car’s battery travels in opposite directions, thus producing an alternating current or AC.

Comparison Chart

Top Pick
ENERGIZER EN500
COBRA CPI 200CH
Runner Up
​BESTEK MRI3011BU
DURACELL POCKET INVERTER 175
​Foval Power Inverter
Energizer 12V 900 WATT POWER INVERTER
Cobra Electronics - DC Outlet Power Inverter
BESTEK 300W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Car Inverter with 4.2A Dual USB Car Adapter
Battery-Biz DRINVPS175 Black Power Inverter
Foval Power Inverter 300W DC 12V to 110V AC Converter with 4.8A Dual USB Car Charger
Cord length
3-foot battery cables
Short
24-inch cord
36-inch power cord
30-inch cable
​USB nº
2 USB ports, 2 AC outlets
1 USB port, 1 AC port
2 USB ports, 2 AC outlets
2 USB ports, 2 AC outlets
2 USB ports, 2 AC outlets
​Output
900-watts
200W continuous, 400W surge
300W continuous, 700W instantaneous
130W continuous, 150W peak. 5V / 2.1A (USB)
Max 4.8A
Editor's Rating
5 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Top Pick
ENERGIZER EN500
Energizer 12V 900 WATT POWER INVERTER
Cord length
3-foot battery cables
​USB nº
2 USB ports, 2 AC outlets
​Output
900-watts
Editor's Rating
5 out of 5 stars
Check Price
COBRA CPI 200CH
Cobra Electronics - DC Outlet Power Inverter
Cord length
Short
​USB nº
1 USB port, 1 AC port
​Output
200W continuous, 400W surge
Editor's Rating
4 out of 5 stars
Check Price
Runner Up
​BESTEK MRI3011BU
BESTEK 300W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Car Inverter with 4.2A Dual USB Car Adapter
Cord length
24-inch cord
​USB nº
2 USB ports, 2 AC outlets
​Output
300W continuous, 700W instantaneous
Editor's Rating
4.5 out of 5 stars
Check Price
DURACELL POCKET INVERTER 175
Battery-Biz DRINVPS175 Black Power Inverter
Cord length
36-inch power cord
​USB nº
2 USB ports, 2 AC outlets
​Output
130W continuous, 150W peak. 5V / 2.1A (USB)
Editor's Rating
3.7 out of 5 stars
Check Price
​Foval Power Inverter
Foval Power Inverter 300W DC 12V to 110V AC Converter with 4.8A Dual USB Car Charger
Cord length
30-inch cable
​USB nº
2 USB ports, 2 AC outlets
​Output
Max 4.8A
Editor's Rating
3.5 out of 5 stars
Check Price

Last update on 2020-03-20 at 06:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Our Power Inverter For Car Reviews

1. ENERGIZER EN500

Energizer 12V 900 WATT POWER INVERTER

The Energizer EN500 is a top-tier car power converter that is designed for use out of the vehicle. With its 3-foot battery cables, it’s better suited to hooking up to a stationary vehicle at a camp ground, for example, as opposed to charging on the go. It is moderately pricey, although that’s well justified.

Energizer 12V 900 WATT POWER INVERTER

Features:

  • Cord length: 3-foot battery cables
  • USB nº: 2 USB ports, 2 AC outlets
  • Output: 900-watts
  • Power inverter from DC 12V to AC 900W
  • Warranty: Unspecified

Product Highlight :

This power inverter from Energizer is an extremely heavy-duty unit that connects directly to a 12V DC battery to provide power to a wide range of electronics, including TVs, gaming consoles, power tools, smartphones and so on. Unlike cheaper models, it includes an LCD display. It's got 2 USB ports and 2 AC outlets, thermal cooling and thermal shutdown, and a range of other safety features.

What's to like about it :

It’s easy to see where the price tag is justified. This power inverter features an LCD for displaying input and output power, as well as battery level, which is an incredibly useful information to have, save for running your car flat. The product comes with 3-foot battery cables and has AC sockets spaced well apart, meaning devices with larger plug sockets won’t get in each other’s way.

What's not to like about it :

The negatives aren’t a big deal in terms of value for money, but they’re worth being aware of. Firstly, this is the most expensive product we’ve reviewed, at around 4x the cost of some alternatives. There’s also no cigarette lighter connector, meaning you’ll have to use the included battery cables to hook this up; that is a more dangerous task than simply using an in-car outlet.

PROS

  • Built-in LCD display
  • Includes 3-foot battery cable
  • Plug sockets are spaced well apart

CONS

  • More dangerous to use
  • No cigarette lighter port connector
  • The most expensive model on our list

2. COBRA CPI 200CH

Cobra Electronics - DC Outlet Power Inverter

The CPI 200 CH is a power inverter designed to fit into the cup holder in your vehicle, converting your 12V cigarette plug into an AC outlet. It’ll charge a single AC and USB, enough for a driver or passenger to charge their electrical devices, though it has no extra space built in for other passenger items.

Cobra Electronics - DC Outlet Power Inverter

Features:

  • Cord length: Short
  • USB nº: 1 USB port, 1 AC outlet
  • Output: 200W continuous, 400W surge
  • Power inverter from DC 12V to AC 200-400
  • Warranty: 30-day warranty

What's to like about it :

With a cupholder-based design, this inverter can ride up front with you, giving you easy access to your charging ports. There’s a very basic design for controlling the power, too. Picking up one of these won’t break the bank, as it’s one of the cheapest in-car inverters we’ve looked at.

What's not to like about it :

With this unit, you only get a single type of each port, allowing one smartphone to be charged alongside one other household electrical device. What’s more, the power cord is very short, though this might not be such an issue when the product is placed in a cupholder in the front cabin. The warranty is unusually short, too.

PROS

  • Convenient cup holder design
  • Simple user interface
  • One of the more inexpensive models

CONS

  • 30-day warranty is very short
  • Only a single USB and AC port
  • Power cord isn’t very long

3. BESTEK MRI3011BU

BESTEK 300W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Car Inverter with 4.2A Dual USB Car Adapter

The BESTEK Advantage comes from a brand that is widely regarded in America as a leading provider of power inverter products. This unit is very compact, weighing in at 1.16 pound, and has 2 USB ports and 2 AC outlets

BESTEK 300W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Car Inverter with 4.2A Dual USB Car Adapter

Features:

  • Cord length: 24-inch cord
  • USB nº: 2 USB ports, 2 AC outlets
  • Output: 300W continuous, 700W instantaneous
  • Power inverter from DC 12V to AC 110V
  • Warranty: 18-month warranty

Product Highlight :

The BESTEK Advantage incorporates a lightweight, durable design, with fast charging for 2 USB devices and 2 AC-powered simultaneously. It has built-in multi-protection, with a 40-amp fuse protecting your devices against short circuits. An integrated cooling fan aids to reduce the build-up of heat that could lead to shortages.

What's to like about it :

Overall, this inverter is no bigger than a leading brand smartphone, making it easy to tuck away within your vehicle. The unit also has some safety features, including built-in fuse protection, which helps to protect your devices in case of a short circuit. Finally, there’s an 18-month warranty included, which is non-limited, offering further peace of mind.

What's not to like about it :

Unlike some models like the Duracell power inverter that we’ve looked at (below), this product has a very industrial-looking design, which doesn’t blend well with the interior of most vehicles. The included cord also falls short compared to many alternatives. Finally, the USB plugs remain powered-on unless the unit is disconnected completely, which could lead to a drain on your car battery.

PROS

  • Non-limited 18-month warranty
  • No larger than an Apple smartphone
  • Built-in fuse protection for your device

CONS

  • Industrial design
  • Has a relatively short cord
  • USB ports always remain powered-on

4. DURACELL POCKET INVERTER 175


Battery-Biz DRINVPS175 Black Power Inverter

The Duracell Pocket Inverter 175 is a premium brand product with a small footprint, available on the market since mid-2013. It’s a lot smaller than some other inverter units, though this can be beneficial from a logistical point of view.

Battery-Biz DRINVPS175 Black Power Inverter

Features:

  • Cord length: 36-inch power cord
  • USB nº: 2 USB ports, 2 AC outlets
  • Output: 130W continuous, 150W peak. 5V / 2.1A (USB)
  • Power inverter from 11-15V DC to 115V AC
  • Warranty: 3-year limited warranty

Product Highlight :

This Duracell 150-watt inverter allows the use of AC and USB-powered devices inside the car when connected to the DC outlet. It has a slim design with 2 front-mounted USB ports and 2 front-mounted AC outlets. There are built-in safety features, too, including short circuit and AC input overload protection, as well as DC input over/under voltage guarding. There is also built-in temperature protection.

What's to like about it :

Due to its small size, this Duracell inverter is extremely lightweight. This means that it can easily be mounted in a variety of locations in smaller cars, where space is a concern. What’s more, the front-mounted sockets are easily accessible, making it even easier to position and mount the inverter.

What's not to like about it :

This unit is lacking a power switch, meaning that the only way to turn it off is to disconnect it entirely from the source. It is also expensive for its size; there are similar alternatives for less price. Finally, Duracell products, though well known, are not always the best performing and more durable products around.

PROS

  • Lightweight design
  • Can easily be mounted
  • Easily accessible front-mounted plugs

CONS

  • Lack of a power switch
  • Expensive for a small model
  • Duracell products not always durable

5. Foval Power Inverter 300W DC

Foval Power Inverter 300W DC 12V to 110V AC Converter with 4.8A Dual USB Car Charger

The Foval Power Inverter is a 300W DC 12V to 110V AC Converter that comes in at the budget-range of the market. It has enjoyed generally favorable feedback since its release in mid-2017.

Foval Power Inverter 300W DC 12V to 110V AC Converter with 4.8A Dual USB Car Charger

Features:

  • Cord length: 30-inch cable
  • USB nº: 2 USB ports, 2 AC outlets
  • Output: Max 4.8A
  • Power inverter from 12V DC to 110V AC
  • Warranty: Unspecified

Product Highlight :

This is a premium 300-watt car power inverter that has 2 USB ports for charging smart devices, as well as 2 AC outlets for laptops and other home electronics, such as game consoles or DVD players. The unit has FCC authentication and is super-compact and lightweight. A durable metal casing provides increased durability and protection against bumps and bangs.

What's to like about it :

This inverter contains a cooling fan to help prevent overheating, and indeed it doesn’t heat up excessively during operation. What’s more, it can support a wide range of devices for what is a very reasonable price tag. Laptops, smartphones, tablets and so on, can all be charged at once.

What's not to like about it :

The unit could do with being larger, as the outlets are so close together that bigger plugs struggle to fit alongside one another. It would also be useful to have a longer cord for the charger. Finally, the directions leave a lot to be desired; the translation is poor and difficult to understand.

PROS

  • Doesn’t heat up during use
  • Cooling fan helps prevent overheating
  • Can support wide array of devices simultaneously

CONS

  • Outlets too close together
  • Directions aren’t translated well
  • Ideally, length of cord could be longer

Buying Guide

Now that we’ve learned a few things about the inner workings of a power inverter, it’s time to find the best one for you. While there are different models and units of power inverters, make sure that you consider the following things when purchasing.

1. Outlets

Different types or models of power inverters also have varying numbers of outlets. When looking for a power inverter for your car, make sure you take note of your devices and what you need to charge or power on while inside your vehicle. Then, choose an inverter that can accommodate all of them at once.

2. Wattage

The power of an inverter, or basically, what electronic devices they can charge, is often measured by its wattage. If you only need power on one device, you can pick an inverter somewhere between 100W and 200W.

However, if you plan to use it on larger or multiple devices, power tools, or appliances, make sure you look for something around the 1000W range.

3. Size

If you have quite a few cars, or you plan on using the inverter for other purposes aside from charging your devices while driving, you should probably go for smaller inverters. These are more than enough to power most of your handheld electronic devices. On the other hand, if you need an inverter for an RV, a heavier and larger unit is necessary.

4. Safety Seal and Features

With all the positive benefits you could get from a power inverter, it would be a shame if it would actually put you or your family’s life in danger. That’s why you need to look for a safety seal or certification. The most common one is the ETL approval.

Additionally, it would be beneficial if the power inverter has safety features, such as automatic shut-off or anti-overheating mechanisms.

How To Install a Power Inverter in Your Car

If you already have a potential power inverter in mind, or you were already able to purchase one, now comes another important question, how will you install it? The answer to this often depends on the type of inverter you bought. Allow us to explain that below.

Small-Load Power Inverter

Some people only need to charge or power a single device while driving. If you’re like them, then you’re probably using an inverter around 100W to 150W, or 200W at most. These are called small-load power inverters.

Generally, you only need to plug it into your car’s cigarette lighter. Then, pick a good spot to place and secure the inverter on. However, you must be careful not to use them on high-demanding electronic equipment, as this may result in overheating or car damage.

Heavy-Load Power Inverter

For those who intend to charge or power larger devices, you will need an inverter capable of handling the job at hand. Heavy-load power inverters receive energy directly from the battery instead of the cigarette lighter.

Use power rings and place them between the nut and the positive (+) terminal post on the battery. The cable of this power ring should run from the battery to the inverter. Additionally, make sure you have a circuit breaker to prevent electrical damage in the event of an accidental short circuit.

FINAL VERDICT

Despite it being the priciest option on the list, our choice out of these 5 popular in-car power inverters is the ENERGIZER EN500. With the Energizer brand, you know that you’re getting a trusted household name, as well as one that is bound to adhere to safety standards. Though it can’t be used for in-car charging, it’s the perfect solution when you need power at a campsite or while stationary.

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