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Does 12v Car Coolers Work

12v car coolers are designed to keep your drinks cool and food warm, even with low power usage. Buying one for your car will benefit you tremendously. However, some motorists are holding back due to certain power concerns. Does 12v car coolers work or do you need to invest in ice packs? Keep reading to find out.

Does 12v Car Coolers Work

12V car coolers are efficient and perform consistently in all weather conditions as long as there is a stable 12V connection and proper working ventilation. The ambient temperature determines how cool your drinks will get. For example, ambient temperature below 72F reduces the temperature to a freezing level while above 90F simply cools your drink. Understanding how a car cooler works will help you get the most of it.

Motorists are choosing 12V car coolers because of their ability to keep items cool. Most advanced 12V car coolers also have dual temperatures to switch between the different temperatures in the country.

What Is A 12v Car Cooler

A 12V car cooler is an electrically powered cooler that draws power from the electrical system of your car through a connection via the cigarette lighter socket. Advanced car coolers are equipped with powerful factory-installed AC Adapters for connecting the cooler to the electrical panel. You can also buy aftermath AC adapters if yours doesn’t come with one.

12V car coolers are of three types: Thermoelectric models, Compressor, and absorption models. Each one works differently and relates differently to the ambient temperature. Thermoelectric car coolers are cheaper while absorption 12V coolers are more expensive, bigger, and require more energy for optimal performance.

How Do 12v Car Coolers Work

12V car coolers cool the interior by reducing the temperature by a specific number compared to external ambient temperature. The temperature difference is between 36 to 40F. The same principle also works in reverse to keep your food warm in cold temperatures. Some advanced car coolers use the Peltier effect to make bigger temperature differences of 70-126F.


Simple and cheap

Although equipped to run at high capacity, 12V car coolers are easy to operate and inexpensive. A small 12v car cooler can cost as low as $36, while expensive options are over $200. Notwithstanding the price difference, all 12V car coolers have a high level of consistent performance. They’re also equipped with touch screen controls for drivers to quickly change between temperatures.

No Noise

12v car coolers cool drinks and warm food without the accompanying noise. A 12v car cooler runs smoothly and leaves no trace of disturbance in its wake. Motorists can enjoy long business calls and focus on important work stuff. Since a 12v cooler is powered by electricity and isn’t fitted with a motor, there are no moving parts that make loud noises.

Plug Into Car Cigarette Lighter For Power

12v car coolers plug directly into your car cigarette lighter by plugging the 12v AC adapter straight into a 12v outlet. This eliminates the need for complex installation and long wiring in your car. However, it draws power from your car battery. So it’s a common practice to check the health of your car battery before connecting. You should also install a secondary battery to reduce the load on your capacitor and primary battery.

Doesn’t Necessary Need A Dual Battery System


While it’s common practice to install an extra battery to support your primary battery, most cars have a warning and shut down the system that prevents car coolers from gaining a car battery. Just make sure the health of your car battery is great and up to 12 volts. These batteries are engineered to discharge power for longer periods.

Fast Cooling System

12v car coolers reach low temperatures quickly, icing and warming your drink and food just in time. Motorists no longer have to pack ice in their coolers while driving or camping.

Charge Your Phones

With a 12v car cooler, motorists no longer have to drive around a power bank. Simply plug your USB cord into the USB charging port of the car cooler to charge smartphones, tablets, and other devices.


12v car coolers can only go as low as 40 F compared to outside ambient temperature. They also use more battery power and are more likely to drain car batteries. That’s why it’s recommended to always install an extra battery when using a 12v car cooler.

Common Features to consider when buying 12v Car Coolers

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is the most important feature to consider when buying a 12v car cooler since it’ll be using your car’s electricity. You want a car cooler that cools your drinks and warms food well, even at low levels. This helps to conserve energy and reduces pressure on your car battery. While 12 volts car batteries are designed to work for a long time, using them for that long hurts car batteries in the long run.


Big car coolers are not common amongst motorists simply because they are harder to place and move. That’s why 12v car coolers are preferred by motorists. These allow them to carry their coolers everywhere with them. They can also place small spaces available in your car. However, if you’re going for a bigger option, then mount it inside your truck.


Average car coolers witness a massive temperature leak whenever the lid is open, even for just a couple of seconds. So you want to look out for car coolers with great insulation to keep your fridge and use less energy. Poorly insulated car coolers are notorious for draining car batteries because they have to work round the clock. They are also more expensive but perform well with a dual battery system.

Lid Location

For convenience, most 12v portable car coolers place the opening lid at the top of the cooler. Motorists simply have to lift the lid open, however, coolers with side lids require constant adjustments and are inconvenient to use, since coolers are placed between the driver and passenger seat. However, with enough space, the opening lid doesn’t matter. Focus on more important features like energy efficiency and dual temperature adjustments.

Temperature Adjustment

Motorists with small and compact vehicles will benefit more from installing just one car cooler rather than 2 different coolers. This is because 12 v coolers can switch between temperatures for cooling your drinks and warming your food. If you reside in a cool environment, then reduce the cooler temperature to 40 degrees below the ambient temperature. You can also switch to a freezing temperature if you’re out camping.

Storage Size

12v car coolers come in different sizes and designs to fit different needs and preferences. Small-sized coolers are great for short drives and personal use. But if you’ll be driving with friends and family for days, then buy one of the big RV car coolers. However, these require more storage space but on the same offer more storage capacity.

Split Compartment

Some advanced 12v car coolers have two compartments. One is for cooling your drinks and the other is for keeping your food warm. Both compartments work simultaneously, therefore, do not require the dual temperature feature. Store your food in the cooler compartment and only heat for a couple of minutes.

How To Maintain Your Car Cooler

Different types of car coolers require their own type and level of maintenance. Consult your manufacturer’s instructions manual to know how best to maintain your own unit. However, it is common practice to clean your car cooler after using it for food. Crumbs and leftovers cause bad odor and diseases which makes your cooler unpleasant to use. Clean it after every use to make it clean and ready for the next day.

How To Maintain Your Car Cooler fridge

Conclusively, 12v car coolers are easy to install and promise a high level of consistent performance between temperatures. They also perform high with less power.