LAST UPDATED: June 2, 2019
Best 12-Volt Car Heaters: Stay Warm and Cozy In Your Car
Warm up your car during the cold season with our top picks for the best 12-volt car heater
The Review Team
How We Decided
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
PUBLISHED ON June 2, 2019
Do you need something that can warm up your body or defrost your windows when driving? Then you should consider a 12-volt car heater, especially during the winter season. A car heater is typically plugged into your vehicle’s 12-volt adapter (cigarette lighter) and heats up your car in seconds. Our review will offer some insight into some of the best 12-volt car heaters on the market today.
Maintains the warmth even when not plugged in. Universal fit for most 12-volt adapters. Comes with long power cables.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of a 12-Volt Car Heater
- Keep warm during the winter. In some extreme cases, your vehicle’s heater unit may not be enough to keep you warm and to keep out the cold air as you drive. A 12-volt heater is an economical way of getting the warmth you need without breaking your bank with a new AC unit for your car.
- Relieve muscle tension. Some car seat warmers come with health benefits. The radiating warmth can help alleviate fatigue and back pain after a long day at work. Some of these seat warmers have customizable features that will help relieve knots, tension, aches, and stress.
- Keep your passengers warm. Your passengers may have different preferences for the level of heat they desire. With a car heater, you could warm up your back row seats while leaving the front row seats cool, or vice versa, and keep everyone in your vehicle happy.
- A cheap car upgrade. Not everyone can afford a luxurious vehicle with heated front (or back) row seats. With the simple addition of a car seat heater, you can take your vehicle to the next level of luxury and comfort.
Types of 12-Volt Car Heaters
Seat Cushion Heater
Seat cushion heaters are some of the best auxiliary car heater products on the market today They fit on standard car seats, providing warmth to the seat occupant and, by extension, to the entire car. Some of these products have smart settings that will allow you to adjust the temperature controls. In addition, most are constructed with high-quality fabric that protects the user from the discomfort of wire bumps.
Radiant Portable Heaters
Radiant portable heaters do not warm the air around them, but instead, emit infrared rays that heat objects in the car as they hit them. It’s important to keep in mind that these types of heaters are fire hazards, especially when used in small cars and other confined spaces. However, they do make great RV heaters.
Fan-Forced Car Heaters
Fan-forced heaters will circulate heat in a given space by passing air over heating elements. Most have strong fans that change the air from cold to warm within a short time, especially in small cars. You should expect to experience some buzzing noise from fan heaters due to their fast rotating fans.
Convection Car Heater
Convection heaters use convection currents to heat up spaces. Since they are quite slow, they are suitable for smaller cars or vehicles with confined spaces such as trucks. They work by heating up air, and letting it rise to create a void that is then filled by cold air. The cycle goes on until the entire space is filled with warm air.
Kingleting is an automotive accessory manufacturing company that makes car mats, neck pillows, and windshield wipers, among other products. The company has some of the best product ratings when it comes to their electric car heaters that plug into the lighter. One of its popular products is the Kingleting Heated Seat Cushion.
Sojoy Universal is a car seat cushion and car seat cover manufacturing company. The company also sells heated electric blankets and comfort forms. The Sojoy Universal 12V Car Seat Heater is one of its top-rated products.
RoadPro has been making high-quality car accessories for more than 30 years. The company is based in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. Its best-selling 12-volt electric heater is the Roadpro 12-Volt Polar Fleece Heated Travel Blanket.
12-Volt Car Heater Pricing
- Under $30: This price range includes heaters that offer simple solutions to your car heating needs. They may be affordable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are safe or good enough to heat up a medium or a large car.
- $35-$45: In this category, you will find mostly car seat heater cushions made of carbon fiber or polyester. The heaters are ideal for cloth, vinyl, and leather car seats. Moreover, they may come with some extra features such as switches and controllers.
- $50 and up: Any product within this range is a premium heater that may have both heating and cooling features such as timers and controllers. Also, most heaters in this range are made of high-quality materials that are comfortable and durable. If you have the extra cash, you may enjoy interesting features such as massaging cushions.
How much heat you get should be within your control. Temperature control lets you adjust the temperature of the heater to match your preferences at the time. It’s even better when the heater comes with an automatic switch that turns off the heater in case you leave it plugged in for a long time.
It’s important to ensure that the product you select can withstand heavy-duty use for the long winter spells. Look at the materials used to construct the product and go for a heater with a long power cord that connects to the vehicle’s cigarette lighter. Note that a portable heater should have a steady swivel base for maximum support.
The speed at which your heater reaches the preferred temperature is important. Winter can get really cold, and you’ll need heaters that will heat up instantly. However, if you prefer gradual heating, there are many cheap heaters available in the market today that will take a couple of minutes before reaching optimum temperature.
- Noise: If you are buying a heater fan, it’s a good idea to check on the amount of noise it gives off. The fan will definitely make some noise from the rotating fans, but the question is if you can stand it.
- Heating Style: You can choose radiant, fan-forced, or convection heating technology. These technologies have their own advantages; they will determine how fast your car gets heated and how much heat you can get from the unit.
- Convenience Features: Some of the heating pads and cushions come with massaging features. These are aimed at increasing your comfort level and promote better blood circulation. Keep in mind that these features will come at an extra cost.
Best 12-Volt Car Heater Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The Kingleting Heated Seat Cushion is one of the best 12-volt heater cushions on the market due to its minimalist design and performance. The heater comes with intelligent temperature control that allows you to preset the preferred temperature. It’s also fitted with a timed power-off protection feature that shuts off the heater just in case you forget. The product is a universal fit for all vehicles with a 12-volt cigarette lighter.
The heater comes with a plug that splits into two interfaces; you can use one plug for two heaters on different seats simultaneously. Moreover, you can choose temperatures ranging from 30 degrees Celsius to 60 degrees Celsius, and it has 3 degrees Celsius of increase or decrease allowance. In addition, it has a timing feature that makes it possible to set a time frame for the heater to work, ranging from 30 to 90 minutes. The cigarette lighter plug is made of flame retardant materials for safety purposes.
One drawback of this heated seat cushion is that it may not be as durable as most would like. This means that you may have to replace it sooner, especially with heavy use. You might also want to test the unit occasionally because it’s prone to malfunctions. The heater may also overheat and burn the seat if improperly installed. Consult the manual before you set it up.
The Trademark Electric Car Blanket is a heated car blanket that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket and stays warm until unplugged. It comes with a long 96-inch power cord that allows passengers in the back seats to enjoy the warmth of the blanket. It’s also constructed with 100 percent polyester fleece, which makes it warm even if it’s not plugged in.
It’s a lightweight heated blanket that has thin wires to prevent user discomfort when sitting on the cushion. The blanket is easily foldable for storage and doesn’t overheat even when left plugged in for long periods of time. The construction and materials are suitable for spot cleaning, and the blanket comes with a storage case with convenient handles.
However, this heated blanket may take too long before getting to its optimum heat level. It doesn’t have a temperature control feature; you can only turn it off only when you unplug it. It’s not designed to last long, therefore, it’s not ideal for heavy-duty use. It is, however, great for people interested in a heated blanket for tailgating and camping.
The Sojoy Universal 12-Volt Car Seat Heater features also a minimalist unit and is a great option for cars with a smart multi-functional car seat. The unit has a fast warm-up feature; you will feel the warmth within three minutes. It’s also fitted with a timer that keeps the heater on for a maximum of 45 minutes.
The cushion features a non-slip bottom that prevents it from slipping off the car seat. It also has a loop fastener and elastic belts to keep the cushion in place. It can reach temperatures of up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit and features high, low, and off switches. For extra comfort, the cushion is constructed with a high-quality polyester fabric that has a soft feel to it.
The main drawback of this heater is that the wires in the cushion may get exposed after some time. To be on the safe side, ask a professional to reinforce the power cord and its cables with extra insulation before installing it. It’s also difficult to install, so you may want an expert to stick around and set it up for you. Moreover, its attachment straps are weak and may come loose with time.
The Stalwart 12-Volt Electric Car Blanket comes in a variety of colors, including blue, red, orange, green, grey, and black/white. It plugs into the cigarette lighter of any car, truck, SUV, or RV. The cord is 96 inches long, so it can easily reach passengers in the backseat.
One of the great things about this blanket is it heats up quickly and retains the heat even after you unplug it. The fleece blanket is lightweight yet warm and comfortable. It's easy to fold and store and doesn't take up a lot of space. It is made of 100 percent polyester and is 59 inches long by 43 inches wide. It comes with a handy storage case with handles. Overall, it's a great option if your vehicle's heating system takes a while to get going.
Unfortunately, you can only spot-clean this blanket because it can't be thrown in the washing machine. Another downside is that it doesn't have high or low heat settings. There have also been some complaints that it gets too hot, which requires you to unplug it regularly to regulate the temperature.
The HealthMate Velour 12V Heated Seat Cushion with Lumbar Support is designed for either the driver or passenger seat and features a soft material for comfort and warmth. You can plug it into your vehicle's 12-volt outlet or purchase a separate AC adapter and use it at your home or office.
This gray cushion uses straps and clasps for installation. It heats up to 114 degrees Fahrenheit and includes both high and low temperature settings. Many users stick with the low heating mode because it's very efficient in that setting. It warms up very quickly, and the heat radiates. It is 0.5 inches thick to provide lumbar support, and heats up both your back and your backside. It's also moderately priced and won't set you back too much moneywise.
One downside is that the elastic band may dig into your seat a little bit. Also, you have to unplug it when you're not using it because in some vehicles it can drain the battery. There have also been some complaints that it stops working after a season or two.
The Sojoy 12V Heated Smart Multifunctional Travel Electric Blanket is designed for cars, trucks, RVs, and more. It's available in checkered black and burgundy as well as black and white and cream tan. The blanket is 60-by-40 inches and plugs directly into your vehicle's cigarette lighter socket. It weighs 1.8 pounds and is made of polyester fleece.
According to the manufacturer, the blanket warms up in just three minutes. It also has three temperature settings: high, medium, and low. Depending on what setting you choose, it will automatically shut off in 30, 45, or 60 minutes. This is helpful because you don't have to worry about draining your vehicle's battery. The company also provides a 30-day money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied with the product.
The biggest complaint about this blanket is that it doesn't get as warm as some people like. It may also take longer than three minutes to warm up, despite the company's claims. In addition, it may emit a strange odor.
The Tvird Car Heated Seat Cushion 2-Pack is great if you want to keep both yourself and your passenger warm in cold weather. The seat cushions warm up in just three to five minutes and feature a high, low, and off switch. They plug into a 12-volt automotive cigarette lighter and feature straps and hooks to hold them in place.
One of the best things about these heated seat cushions is that they feature UL-approved wiring that is safe and nonflammable. The cushions reach a maximum temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit and are designed to fit a wide range of cars, trucks, SUVs, and RVs. You can also use them on office chairs. Users love the snug fit and how they don't move around when you're driving. They're also not too bulky.
Unfortunately, they may slip and slide around on leather seats. Also, if you have a wide center console, the length of the cord may be too short to reach your seat properly. There have also been some complaints that they don't warm your back very well.
The Zone Tech Heated Car Seat Cushion 2-Pack is 16.1 by 18.1 inches and features a fireproof design. It's a universal fit and easily attaches to your seat using straps. It's designed for cars, trucks, SUVs, and RVs and works using a 12-volt DC outlet. Available in black only, it is versatile and can be used either on your bottom or on your back.
The cushion warmer incorporates Far-infrared heating that is built into the material. That way, you won't feel any lumpy wires on your body. You can choose between high or low heat settings, and it reaches temperatures up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Users also like that it heats up quickly and is easy to adjust even when you're driving.
One problem is the raised bumps are not very cushioning or comfortable for some users. It may also slip around the seat, and you have to readjust it every time you get in and out of the vehicle. Also, the cord is not long enough to reach the back seat of many vehicles.
The ELUTO Electric Car Blanket is 60-by-43.5 inches and features polar fleece material. It's available in black and white, green, and red. The 2.3-pound blanket operates using your vehicle's 12-volt outlet and has a 79-inch power cord. It's designed for cars, trucks, SUVs, and RVs, and provides three temperature settings: low, medium, and high.
The blanket comes with a timer, and it shuts off automatically after 45 minutes. This prevents users from getting overheated or scalded. The fleece fabric distributes heat in an S shape for maximum coverage. Users love that the blanket heats up in just a few minutes and that it's easy to fold and store when it's not in use. The company also has a 100-percent satisfaction warranty if you're unsatisfied with its product.
However, some people complain that it's not hot enough even on the highest setting. Also, the cord is not detachable, so you can't put it in the washing machine. It may also stop working after a short period of use.
The Big Ant Heated Seat Cushion is designed for both 12-volt and 24-volt systems. It features two heating pads in the back and bottom areas and warms up in just a few minutes. It provides consistent heat between 110 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The cushion is CE-certified and features overheat protection for safety.
This cushion features a high and low setting and is designed with non-slip rubber, so it shouldn't move around on the seat. It also features two small pockets for items such as a wallet or cell phone. In addition, it comes with an AC adapter, so you can also use it at home or in the office. Overall, it’s easy to install this cushion, and it warms up very quickly.
One of the biggest downsides with this product is that it's a little pricey. Also, the positioning of the control pad can make it difficult to see the indicator lights. Since you're essentially sitting on the on/off and temperature buttons, it's hard to see them.
- Clean the car seat cushion heater according to the manufacturer’s instructions; most aren't water-resistant. Also, remember to clean off any debris hiding under the cushion as it can reduce the lifespan of the heater.
- Make sure you keep an eye on heaters that don’t have automatic switches. Unplug them every time you leave the car; most are fire hazards, and some can drain your vehicle’s battery if left plugged into an idle vehicle.
- Always inspect the heater after every two months of use. There are some products that will give in to wear and tear faster than others, and it’s a good idea to inspect them for any exposed wires or fabric tears.
Q: Will the heater stay on when the car is turned off?
A: This will depend on the heater’s features and the design of the car. Some cars will not have an electric current in the cigarette lighter socket once the car has been turned off. Some cars may keep the 12-volt plug running even when the engine is shut off, which may drain your car battery. Some heaters preserve their heat for about 30 minutes or longer after the car has been turned off.
Q: Are there any risks involved with car heaters?
A: Being a product that capitalizes on electricity to emit heat, there will always be a few risks involved. You will need to ensure that there are no exposed wires for user safety. Moreover, there may be allergen risks based on the materials used to construct a heater cushion; you may end up with a rash on your back and thighs if you are allergic to the fabric.
Q: Will the heaters still work under a thick seat cover?
A: That depends on the power output of the heater. During the cold weather, you may not experience the full benefits of a heater that performs at a moderate temperature, especially when it’s tucked under a thick cushion. In that case, you could switch to a lighter seat cover or a floor-mounted car heater.
The Kingleting Heated Seat Cushion is our top pick for the best electric car heater as it offers both value and quality. In addition, it lets you adjust the temperature to your preferred setting.
If you are looking for a budget car seat heater with useful features, the Trademark Electric Car Blanket, made of 100 percent polyester fabric, is a great choice.