Best Jump Starters: Our Top Picks for Getting Your Engine Running Again
Get your car moving again with these top jump starters
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No one likes to be stuck on the side of the road with a dead car battery. As an alternative to the typical use-another-car approach to jump-starting a battery, jump starters offer a simple way to get a vehicle running again. With plenty of juice to jump a car battery several times and recharge small mobile devices, car jump starters also offer a lot of versatility in use. To learn more, read on for our complete guide on jump starters.
Why Buy a Jump Starter
- Jump-start your car without help. What happens when your car battery dies on the road? Normally, you need to find someone else with a working car and some jumper cables. A portable jump starter fulfills the role of the other car, so you can jump your own vehicle using something the size of an external hard drive.
- Keep an emergency kit. Being prepared on the road is a must, especially for long road trips. In addition to normal survival supplies and automotive tools, a jump starter is a great part of any emergency kit.
- Charge other devices. Since a portable jump starter is just a large battery with plenty of power for multiple jumps, you can use one to keep other devices powered as well. In fact, many jump starters have built-in USB ports to plug mobile devices right inside your car.
- Get a multipurpose tool. Beyond charging car and mobile device batteries, many jump starters pack in other helpful features. To get more functionality out of a single tool, especially something you add to your emergency road kit, a jump starter is a smart consideration.
Types of Jump Starters
For those times when you find your battery nearly or completely dead, a jump box starter is the best thing to keep around in lieu of some jumper cables and another car. What is basically just a sealed lithium-ion or lead-acid battery, a portable car jump starter is small enough to keep inside the car and powerful enough to jump a car battery several times before needing a recharge. Unfortunately, the internal battery of a portable charger will lose juice over time, meaning you'll have to keep it charged periodically.
In the rare case, your car battery dies at home, a plug-in car battery jump starter can be the better investment. Hooking up to any standard power outlet, plug-in starters can provide a quick jump. More importantly, most plug-in options also offer a trickle charge, recharging the car battery slowly. The major downside is pretty straightforward: You can't take it with you unless you've got a long extension cord lying around.
Top Brands of Jump Starters
Tacklife offers a wide range of products with an aim on high-quality, low-price construction. As an international company, Tacklife specializes in lawn and garden/home appliance products that are compatible with different country standards. For jump starters, check out their T8 Starter if you want something compatible with gas and diesel engines.
One of the few companies that specialize in portable power, NOCO has been developing jump starters, solar panels, and other power devices since 1914. From humble beginnings in Cleveland, Ohio, the company has grown into a trusted name in power with sought after solutions like the NOCO Genius Boost Plus. Their ultra high-end Boost Pro GB150 is the preferred jump starter for many road warriors.
A common name in hand and power tools, Stanley offers plenty of automotive tools to stock your entire garage from scratch. Options like their Fatmax J7CS are great for keeping a home-based battery charger around for all of your vehicles.
Founded in 2015, ABOX is a company focused on new product innovation. As a result, their product lineup is diverse, ranging from LCD projectors/soundbars to automotive dashcams. Their jump starter, the TrekPow, is a small and versatile unit that delivers a whopping 1,500 amps of peak current.
Jump Starter Pricing
- $50 and under: The budget range of jump starters. Here, it’s easy to find simple jump starters that lack extended features like LED flashlights and radios. Most starters in this range are suitable for smaller vehicles.
- $50-$150: A good range to consider if you want an average jump starter with some additional features/capabilities that still retains a compact size. More powerful starters for larger vehicles are common here.
- $150 and above: You will find high-end portable jump starters and most plug-in starters in this range. The larger, garage-based starters are common and typically come with plenty of extra features and accessories.
Reverse Polarity Protection
To keep yourself safe while jumping a car, look for a jump starter with reverse polarity protection as a safety feature. Jumping a car battery can be dangerous since it involves large amounts of electricity. Connecting the cables, for example, can increase that danger factor if each clamp isn't placed in the right spot. Reverse polarity protection will sound an alarm on the jump starter if something isn't connected in the right spot.
Get the most out of a jump starter with different features. It's not uncommon to find starter models with built-in LCD screens, LED lights, air compressors, electronic device chargers, radios, and more. There is a small tradeoff to having more features, however. Some extra capabilities can increase the size and decrease the portability of the unit. Therefore, consider what features you want vs. the portability you need out of the jump starter.
- Power: As a power source, jump starters advertise their power output in a few different ways. Cranking amps and cold cranking amps, however, are the most important. These represent the amount of power the jump starter can discharge in a short amount of time. This will tell you whether a jump starter can deliver the juice your battery needs to start the engine. Compared to cranking amps, the peak amps don't give you much to compare different jump starters, especially which ones are compatible with your vehicle.
- Size: Since portability is an important factor with jump starters, size matters. Smaller lithium jump starters with a compact design are best for smaller cars where you can store one in the glove box. Most will work with any vehicle, but if you want a jump starter for a motorcycle or ATV, you will want the smallest possible.
- Build Quality: Car batteries don't take the surrounding environment and weather conditions into account when they die. As a result, it's important to have a jump starter that is durable enough to survive in different conditions. Specifically, you should find a jump starter that can operate in a large temperature range. Colder temperatures, in particular, can challenge a starter's ability to discharge enough power if it isn't properly insulated. The starter should be able to survive a few hard falls as well.
Best Jump Starters Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Jump Starter Overall: NOCO Boost Pro GB150
This NOCO jump starter is our top pick for the best portable jump starter for one simple reason: It delivers power in spades. The advertised power output raises a few eyebrows at first since most starters won't even offer half of what NOCO advertises. Practical experience with the starter, however, backs up the company's claims.
The jump starter has no problem starting large diesel engines even slightly past the advertised 10-liter capacity. Good for larger trucks, the starter is also easy to keep charged on the go. With a 12v charging cord, you can plug the starter right into the car to keep it charged once the car battery is replaced or at full capacity once again.
Given the high power output of the starter, this may be overkill for smaller vehicles. The battery takes a few hours to get a full charge, meaning at-home charging will be necessary. You won't want to leave this plugged into your car unless you want to put the starter to good use after shortly charging it.
Best Value Jump Starter: Gooloo SuperSafe Jump Starter
The Gooloo Jump Starter is not just a top value pick if you're on a budget, but we've found it to also be one of the most simple and straightforward starters available. Its size, combined with a no-frills approach in its design, makes it a good option for smaller vehicles that don't require a lot of power to get the engine running.
The starter's construction shows it's intended to survive poor weather conditions. The exterior case is hard and seems weather-sealed enough to handle cold temperatures or wet weather. Slightly larger than an average hand, the starter fits comfortably into a glove compartment, back seat, or trunk without taking up too much room elsewhere.
Since the starter is small, you shouldn't expect too much in terms of the power output. While it's powerful enough to handle small cars, in addition to smaller engines found on motorcycles, lawn mowers, or off-road quads, it's not the best choice for larger vehicles with power-hungry starters. The starter's battery also seems to drain more quickly than other options while not in use.
Best Jump Starter Honorable Mention: ABOX TrekPow
While jumping a car with a portable starter isn't rocket science, anything that simplifies the process for first-time users increases safety and convenience. That is ABOX's approach to the TrekPow jump starter—simple use with a few bonus features thrown into the mix. As our honorable mention, the TrekPow is a top contender if you want something that's user-friendly.
Coming with detachable cables and clamps, the design of the TrekPow is aligned with promoting safe use as much as possible. Beyond the typical color coding (red and black), the cables are spark-proof and work in tandem with the starter's reverse polarity protection to keep the connections safe. There's also a built-in flashlight so you can use the starter at night.
While the jump starter itself offers a lot, the included accessories leave a lot to be desired. The manual is hard to follow, forcing you to refer to the company's website for more detailed instructions. The starter also lacks an included USB AC power supply, so if you want to charge the starter, you'll need to buy it separately or use a spark plug that often comes with other devices.
- Make sure you connect the correct cables to the proper post or location when using a starter. The red cable connects to the positive (plus) post, while the black cable should connect to a metal surface on the car's frame.
- Charge the jump starter every few months to make sure it has a good supply of power during an emergency.
- Since cold weather can affect power levels inside the starter's battery and make it drain faster, keep the starter inside when not driving the car.
- If the jumper cables detach from the starter, keep them attached with a clip or rubber band so they will always be close to the starter.
Q. How long does a jump starter take to recharge?
A. Generally, just a few hours like any other small device. This will depend on the model and charging method (power outlet vs. USB port).
Q. Can a jump starter recharge a car battery?
A. Typically, no. Most portable jump starters only give enough juice to jump the engine. Some plug-in, home-use starters, however, do offer a trickle charge to get a car battery going again.
Q. Can I use one jump starter for multiple cars?
A. As long as the peak power rating is high enough to jump the largest vehicle, you should have no problem using one starter with multiple cars.
Q. How high should the cold cranking amps (CCAs) be for a jump starter?
A. There is no ideal number, but more CCAs are generally better. You can refer to any labels on the car battery to see what CCAs it requires to start. Otherwise, higher CCAs make the starter more likely to jump a completely dead battery.
Q. Can I use a jump starter on a hybrid?
A. In most cases, yes. It's important, however, that you jump the right battery. There's usually a smaller battery secondary to the primary battery that starts the conventional engine that you can safely charge. Read the hybrid's owners manual for more specific details.
Our top pick for the best jump starter is the NOCO Boost Pro GB150. With a large power output, this is the jumper to choose when you have a large vehicle that other starters can't handle.
To save some money, the Gooloo SuperSafe Jump Starter is a better value pick. In addition to the smaller price tag, its simple design makes it easy to get an engine up and running in no time.
Now it's time to hear from you. Has a jump starter saved your automotive behind in the past? Have any top picks of your own? Sound off in the comments below.
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