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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Which portable fridge is best?
Although you may have a different opinion about brands and their models, after conducting a quick online search, Dometic CFX3 series portable refrigerators are found to be more reliable as compared to others. The most preferred one is:
This fridge works on AC, DC, and Solar energy, and can offer a temperature as low as -7oF. The best part is, the refrigerator can be connected to a Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth to allow remote cooling management.
What is the most efficient 12V fridge?
If you have used or are still using a portable fridge, the chances are that you already have a brand in mind that you trust the most. In any case, listed below are some portable refrigerators that have been liked and recommended by many consumers:
Suitable for camper trucks, pickup SUVs, and other such offroad vehicles, the temperature of this portable fridge ranges between -4oF and -50oF. This CE and FCC-certified refrigerator comes with a 2-year warranty and is designed to make less noise as compared to others. If you are looking for a pocket-friendly portable fridge, this one is worth considering.
VL45 offers a cooling range from -18oC to -10oC and has a built-in key-type locking system. This piece of equipment comes with a 5-year warranty on the compressor and a 1-year warranty on the other parts that it has. If you are new to portable fridges, ICECO VL45 can be a good pick when it comes to working efficiency, durability, and overall performance.
How long do portable refrigerators last?
Good quality portable fridges from a reputed brand usually last for around 20 years. However, the lifespan majorly depends on how well they are maintained and using habits. Some important things that you must practice regularly to enhance your fridge’s life include:
What is the best type of fridge for a campervan?
A couple of factors must be kept in mind while choosing a decent campervan fridge. Some important points in this context are listed below:
Determine what do you plan to keep in the fridge while camping and how long do you wish to camp for. Depending on the assessment, you may want to pick a portable refrigerator of an appropriate volume.
E.g., for short journeys, a fridge of 10 liters to 45 liters would be good. On the other hand, if you are an offroad enthusiast and spend most of your time driving, having a refrigerator with a capacity of 50 liters or above would be a wise choice.
Depending on the time you usually spend driving and for how long you stay away from the vehicle, your choice of a portable fridge may vary. For example, if you drive for long hours, a compressor or absorption fridge would be the right pick as it takes power from the batteries or gas respectively. Usually, a compressor fridge performs comparatively better.
On the other hand, if you spend more time on the ground and keep your car turned off, a solar-operated fridge would be the best option for you.
According to the space in your vehicle and the items that you carry while camping, you can choose:
This design is mostly found in home fridges. A front-loading fridge has a door that also has a few shelves to store beverages like cold drink cans, water bottles, etc. Simply put, a front-loading fridge allows you to store stuff in an organized manner and gives you easy access to them.
The design of this fridge is similar to that of front-loading. The only difference is, the door in this one opens like a drawer and doesn’t swing on the hinges as is the cease with the previous refrigerator.
These fridges are quite popular as they are more efficient when it comes to power consumption and can stack more stuff them. However, they are mostly suitable for spacious vehicles that have a larger headspace. Further, sometimes it gets cumbersome to store or access items in them due to an unorganized storage system.
This point precedes everything else. Although picking a good and pocket-friendly portable fridge is sometimes challenging, Amazon allows you to sort the search results based on star ratings and price range. This approach enables you to choose a quality portable refrigerator that is within your budget.
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[Main photo credit: LightField Studios / ShutterStock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]
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).
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.
Yea, but the first one has a BLUETOOTH SPEAKER!!!!
Bluetooth speakers are like the digital clocks of late 80’s. Companies are slapping them on everything.
If you can afford to have friends then you can afford a luxury cooler.
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.
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