Best 12 Volt Car Heaters [Review & Guide]
A 12-Volt car heater can come in handy in extreme cold to keep you warm in your vehicle. There are myriads of car heaters to choose from.
But in many ways, a very good 12 Volt car heater can be a suitable option for you. A good quality car heater can warm up any vehicle within a few minutes.
But, it is a daunting task to find out the best one for you out there. So, in this guide, we will be covering the best 12 Volt car heaters you can buy for your money.
You will find reviews of each of the selected 12 Volt car heaters as well as a detailed buying guide.
So, if you are ready, let’s delve into the fun part…
RoadPro RPSL-681 Direct Hook-Up Ceramic Heater
Cabin Heater AH-200
RoadPro RPSL-581 - DO NOT BUY THIS ONE
Peak PKCOJ5 12V Heater and Fan/Defroster - DO NOT BUY THIS ONE
Lasko MyHeat Personal Space Heater
Honeywell HHF370B 360 Degree Surround Fan Forced Heater
Review of the Best 12-volt Car Heaters
We are starting our review with one of the most unique car heaters out there. It is made especially for heating trucks and it is one of the biggest heaters available right now.
So, it is perfect for heating up any pickups, tractors, or trucks. Remember that you need to connect it to the car battery directly to power it up.
It would be a great solution for expedition trucks too if that’s your choice of vehicle for overlanding.
It is a 12 V heater which needs at least 25 amp in-line fuse. It is advised that you should install this heater in a suspended position.
So, you should not place it on the dashboard or the floor of your vehicle. However, as it comes with a 15 feet cable, you will be able to install it with ease following the instruction manual.
All the required hardware to install it comes in the package. It is pretty intuitive to use it.
There is a switch to turn it on or off. Added to that, you will find a dial to control the level of the heat inside your vehicle easily.
So, if you need to cool the temperature down a bit or vice versa, you can do that. There is also a swivel base at the bottom of the heater. So, you can set up the direction of the air flow to your liking without any issues.
What Previous Buyers Said?
One particular buyer said that he bought this heater for his dad’s pickup – and it is working perfectly. Another buyer said that she bought it for heating up their truck cabin.
She installed it effortlessly and it heats up the vehicle in minutes. Most of the buyers were happy with it.
- Emits hot air immediately
- Can heat up large areas adequately
- Comes with a robust build quality
- Some might face difficulties to install it as it needs to be hooked up directly to the battery
This one comes from the famous Aqua-Hot brand. Aqua-Hot is one of the industry leaders in the RV heating industry.
They are well known for offering car/RV heaters of top quality. This particular car heater is not any exception at all.
It comes with some useful features which can come in handy to keep you warm.
For instance, it has a max of 6000 BTUs/hour. This heater has a fan output of 200 CFM. All these means, this can heat up a small cabin efficiently.
Additionally, it heats up so fast and doesn’t take a lot of space as well. Due to its compact size, it can be used as a portable car heater as well.
The installation process is easy. It comes with a mounting bracket that can be rotated up to 180-degrees.
You can also lock the rotation. There is a switch which can be used to turn it on or off. Also, you can increase/decrease the level of heat with that switch as well.
This is a water-based 12V DC heating system. From our observation, we can tell you that, it will be a perfect choice for side-by-side UTVs, and any other small cabin compartment vehicles.
What Previous Buyers Said?
The majority of the previous customers praised the efficacy of this car heater. In fact, some of them also stated that it is one of the best 12-volt car heaters for ATVs and UTVs.
Most of the satisfied customers also said that it kept their vehicle warm even when the temperature was below zero-degree.
- Very compact in size yet durable build quality
- Heats up fast
- The temperature level can be controlled
- When the fan is at 100%, there might be a bit of noise
RoadPro is behind some of the best 12 Volt car heaters. However, in the case of the RoadPro RPSL-581, they may have done a poor job. It’s true that this is a feature-rich defroster, but it’s just not a car heater.
The manufacturer did not design this product to heat a car, only to defrost your windscreen apparently, but people are trying to purchase it as a heater. Big mistake.
But, the problem with this heater is that it can’t carry out the task of keeping the vehicle warm. And, that is why we don’t recommend it to our readers.
We have included this one on our review of the best 12 Volt car heaters so that you can avoid spending money on it.
What Previous Buyers Said?
In short, almost all of the buyers were disappointed with it. Some said this is a waste of money while others said this was one of the worst purchases of their life…
So, you can see that it is far from the best 12 Volt car heater. So, if you are not short on budget, there are other great options out there for you.
- Offers various features for a portable car heater
- The price is not that high
- Can’t produce enough heat even for a small cabin
- Installation is cumbersome
- It cannot defrost the windows as well
This is another portable car heater which comes with lots of features. Yet, this one has plenty of drawbacks that should not be on your wish list.
This 12 Volt car heater can be powered with a cigarette lighter plug.
It has a foldable handle for adjusting the position freely. And on the back, there is a 360-degree rotary holder with which it can be mounted with ease.
However, this one also has the same drawback as the last one we talked about. It doesn’t produce enough heat to keep you warm in the cold temperature.
Again, don’t buy it to use it as a heater because it can’t do the job.
What Previous Buyers Said?
The overall feedback of the previous buyers about this car heater was negative. One buyer said it produces barely any heat at all.
Another person reported that it stopped working after a month. And, another customer told that it blew out the fuse on his lighter. So, we would tell you to keep away from this car heater.
- Comes with an auto-power off function for safety
- The design is attractive
- Great build quality
- Can’t produce enough heat
- Users are usually unhappy with this product
As the name suggests, it is not specifically designed as a car heater. Rather, it is a personal space heater.
This Lasko MyHeat heater comes in 4 different colors including black, purple, blue, and white. It is a compact and portable heater. So, it is better for a single person.
If you travel alone frequently, you can get one of this for your car. It works great for a small area. This car heater is very easy to use as well.
You just need to plug in it into a power outlet and then switch it on with the help of the switch.
It also comes with an overheat protection feature. The exterior is cool-touch, so it won’t get hot over time. No need to be worried about the accidental burn.
It needs only 200 watts of power. It is just 6.1 inches tall yet can generate enough heat to keep your vehicle warm.
What Previous Buyers Said?
Most of the current users praised the price to quality ratio of this car heater. Also, many of them liked the compact size and the cool-touch exterior feature.
Added to this, most of the users agreed that it can warm up to about 2 feet away. So, if you are looking for a personal space heater, this can be a great choice.
- Lightweight and highly portable
- Very much affordable
- Easy to use
- Multiple colors to choose from
- Can be used at home/office as well
- Not suitable for heating up larger space
If you are looking for a feature-rich car heater, then the Honeywell 360-Degree Surround Heater has some of the best features.
This is also a very compact and lightweight heater that is suitable for use as a personal space heater.
You can use it in your car, home, kitchen, office, etc. This comes with a 360-degree design which allows it to transmit the heat all around the room.
It gets automatically turned off if it gets overheat. The exterior comes with cool-touch technology. So, the exterior plastic won’t heat up and you can touch it without getting accidentally burned.
It also has a tip-over protection feature. For instance, if it gets accidentally tipped over, it will turn off automatically.
This handy heater also has an ‘auto-off’ timer option. You can also control the level of heat. On the top, there is a handle to carry around without any issues.
Overall, this is one of the best 12 Volt car heaters in terms of portability and features.
What Previous Buyers Said?
Most previous customers were happy about the price and the features it came with. They said that it is better for using to heat up a small space.
Also, some of them talked positively about the 360-degree design. All in all, it has great positive feedback from the previous buyers.
- Heats up in an instant
- Comes with a thermostat control feature
- Comes with multiple safety features
- Very lightweight and portable
- Easy to use
- It might be a bit noisy on high heat setting
12-volt Car Heater Buying Guide
Types of Car Heaters
Mainly, there are 3 types of car heaters. They are fan-forced car heaters, convection car heaters, and radiant car heaters respectively. Let’s elaborate…
Fan-Forced Car Heaters
This is the most common car heaters you will see. Matter of fact, almost all of the car heaters we have talked about in this post are of this kind.
This type of heaters actually works like a typical fan. It will take the normal air from the environment and will pass it through a heating element.
As a result, the cold air will be turned into hot air. And, the fan will circulate the hot air into the room. This tends to be cheap and easy to operate.
On the other hand, the fan might make a tad bit of noise while blowing the air out at the high setting.
Convection Car Heaters
As the name suggests, this type of car heaters uses the convection method to heat up your car. It will convert the cold air to hot air of the surroundings.
During that period, the hot air will rise up and will create a void for more cold air to enter. Over time, the cold air will turn into hot air and the environment will be filled up by hot air.
If your vehicle is sealed up, then it will be wiser to use convection car heaters. Also, as this type of heater completes a cycle over and over to generate hot air, it will take a lot of time to heat up your vehicle using this type of car heaters.
And, that is one of the main reasons, we haven’t included them in this review of the best 12-volt car heaters.
Radiant Car Heaters
This type of car heaters uses infrared radiation to heat up the air. It will heat up the area where the infrared radiation will hit.
Due to this process, it is better to use this heaters to warm up any specific object. So, it is not a good idea to use radiant car heaters to keep a big area warm.
When Should You Get a Car Heater?
Not everybody should get a car heater. There are some particular situations for which you should go for a car heater. Here are some of the main reasons…
It is pretty intuitive. If you live in a place where the temperature is always below or near zero, you should get a car heater. Otherwise, you will have a hard time keeping your vehicle warm.
Current Car Heater Issues
If your car already has a car heater built-in, you might not need a new one. However, if it gets damaged, then you can either fix it or get a new portable car heater.
Long Distant Trips
If you usually go on long distant trips, you might need to keep yourself warm at night or when the temperature is cold. A car heater can come in handy in those situations.
If you live in a region with a cold climate, you will be familiar with the frozen windshield. A car heater can be used as a defroster as well. So, if you face this type of issues on a regular basis, you should get a car heater to defrost the windshield with ease.
In the Winter
Depending on the region you live, you might not need a car heater throughout all the seasons. However, for most of us, a portable car heater can be great to have in the winter season.
It will be easy for you to keep you warm inside of your vehicle using a heater.
Car Heaters Safe or Not?
The short answer is — yes, they are safe. You always need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions!
In general, it all depends on you and the car heater you are using. For instance, if you are using a low-quality car heater, then it might be hazardous.
But, most of the high-end car heaters come with many safety features. So, those are pretty much safe to use.
Also, there are a few tips you should follow to use your car heater safely. We will share them in another section down below.
Benefits of Using a Car Heater
A car heater can be advantageous in many ways. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using a car heater.
The main reason a car heater is used to keep the inside of a vehicle warm. So, if you are living in an area where the temperature is cold, you can get a car heater for more comfort.
Camping or Hunting
Whether you are going camping or hunting, you probably need to spend a night or two outside. In those circumstances, your car and a portable car heater can make sure you are comfortable and warm.
Easy on the Pocket
The best thing about 12 Volt car heaters would be the price. Most of these car heaters are inexpensive.
So, if you want to get a new car heater for your car, you don’t have to spend a lot.
On top of that, if your primary car heater is broken or damaged, you can always go for a portable one.
Tips to Keep Yourself Warm in Your Car
It should be clear to you that the best thing to keep your car warm would be to use a car heater.
But, if you don’t own a car heater yet, you don’t have to be fighting toothless with the harsh cold. In that case, we have some tips for you. Here we go…
Tint the Windows
Tinting your car’s windows can be a good idea for many reasons. You will be safe from about 99% of the harmful UV rays from the sunlight.
Aside from that, tinting would work as an additional layer of insulation. Due to this, the heat will reside inside your car during winter.
And, your car will heat up faster than usual. Also, it will help you during other seasons as well. As it is reported that tinting your car windows can keep out about 70% heat during hot weather condition.
Use the Vehicle
A running vehicle can give you warmth even without a car heater. You don’t need to keep your car running all the time, though.
Rather, you can run it for 10-15 minutes every couple of hours or so. If you are stuck for a long time, you should use the power of your car wisely.
On top of these, make sure to seal up the vehicle as much as possible. It will also give you some comfort and warmth. So, whenever in danger, try to use your vehicle in the best way possible.
Bring Those Blankets
Whether you have a functioning car heater or not, you should keep a few blankets on your car. If your car heater accidentally stops functioning, these blankets can be very helpful.
Another great option would be to buy some thermal blankets. These are also some of the best option available for fighting cold temperature.
You can also wear multiple layers of clothes for temporary warmth. On top of that, you can also get winter sleeping bags.
With the help of this product, you can at least try to tackle the cold as much as possible.
Safety Tips to Follow While Using Car Heaters
Safety always comes first. You can’t compromise here.
Typically, using a car heater is safe. Yet, you can follow some basic guideline to be safer. Here are some safety tips for you if you use a car heater regularly.
Follow the Instruction Manual
Every car heater would be different than the other. And, they will come with a specific instruction manual as well.
So, you should follow your car heater’s specific instruction manual while using it. Follow the guideline of the manufacturer. That way, you will be secure and safer.
Installing the Car Heater
If you are tech-savvy, you might easily install the car heater on your car. However, if you are inexperienced in this field, you should avoid mounting a car heater.
It is better to call for a mechanic or a friend who is a professional. You should keep in mind that, installing a car heater incorrectly could lead to a fire hazard.
Understand the Mechanism
You should be familiar with all the features and functions that your car heater comes with. Is there a switch to control the heat level?
Does your car heater come with overheat protection? Or, if there is an auto-turn off function available if it tips over? You should know this thing in a detailed manner.
Otherwise, you might damage the device within a moment. And, that might turn out to be menacing as well.
Summing it up — Best 12 Volt Car Heaters
We have talked about a number of best 12 Volt car heaters in this post. If you have read the post till this point, chances are you already have a favorite one.
However, for those of you who still can’t finalize your decision, we have got your back.
From our observation, we think the best one in the list above would be the RoadPro RPSL-681. It is one of the biggest ones when it comes to 12 Volt truck/car heaters.
It is known for generating enough heat for a large truck cabin. Also, it works fast. Nevertheless, you can give it a shot.
However, if you are going for a portable car heater, then the Honeywell HHF370V can be another great choice.
It is the portable car heater which comes with the most features on our list. Also, the price is very reasonable compared to the features it comes packed with. So, you can’t go wrong choosing this car heater from Honeywell.
If you have any queries or suggestions, just leave a comment down below!
Popular articles on OverlandSite
Follow Us on Instagram
Sign Up To Receive FREE Guides
hello, we are Evelin and Ferenc,
Sign up to learn more about overlanding!
We will occasionally email you with new stories, overlanding guides and product recommendations. Nothing spammy, don't worry!
YOUR PRIVACY IS PROTECTED