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
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BY Norah Tarichia / LAST UPDATED 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.
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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
- 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.