Electric cool boxes are one of my favourite inventions!
They’re convenient and portable, and they keep food fresh for hours – perfect for road trips! And as you know, I do love a road trip…and they rock for another favourite pastime – Camping!
Here’s my pick of the best electric cool boxes in three most bought categories on the market in 2020. Scroll down for our in-depth reviews and buyers guides!
- Best Small Car Electric Cool Box Check price
AEG On-board bar BK 6, thermoelectric cooler/heat box, 6L is Ideal for travel – comfortable armrest and beverage holder. Holds 0.5L bottles & 330 ml Cans. Works off car chargers
- Best Standard Size Electric Cool Box Check price
Andes Large 25L 12V/240V Cool Box Insulated Cooler & Heater. Perfect budget price picnic cool box to keep food warm or cool!
- Best Family Size/ XL Camping Elec Cool Box Check price
COLEMAN - Kühlbox Xtreme 100 QT - Coolbox. This is perfect size for camping and enjoying beach picnics. Its a fully Insulated Food Fridge which cools for upto 5 Days!
All our featured cool boxes run off of the 12v in-car charging socket in your vehicle, and some options also come with a mains adaptor as well. Unlike regular coolers that are meant to keep things cold, some 12V coolers give you the option of keeping things warm as an alternative. Many of the best brands come in a range of sizes/quarts.
Electric coolers are an investment – even a basic model will set you back (on average) £50.00 or more. But you’re likely to get a lot of use out of one if you regularly drive out to picnic spots. If you’re worried about the drain on your car battery then don’t be – many models have a built-in 12v protection circuit that will cut off automatically to stop the cooler from completely depleting your battery.
These are also great for doing the weekly shop – especially if like us you have to drive for at least half an hour to get to a large supermarket. I use my BERG Cooler for my bi-monthly ‘big shop’ trips to Inverness (I like to go round my big four of Asda, Tesco, Aldi and Lidl – I know, it drives my husband nuts!) and along with my standard Andes Cooler I can rest assured my frozen goods won’t be mush by the time I get home.
All the in depth reviews of electric cool boxes below look at the foolwing criteria to find you the best buys:
- Type of electric cool box
- Removable Lid
- Size & Weight
Coleman Xtreme Coolers are the Daddies of coolboxes! Coming in 50/52/70/100 QT sizes
The Colemen Xtreme 100 QT cooler holds 160 cans – thats more than six cases of beer!Xtreme 5 Technology keeps ice up to 5 days in temperatures up to 90° F (32.22° C)
Coleman Xtreme coolers are designed with premium insulation technology which keeps the contents cold on ice for days. These coolers are perfect for long road trips, days spent on the campsite, or even sporting events. I used mine a T in the Park and the drinks lasted the weekend cold!
As an added feature the lid doubles as a seat for a person up to 113kg or as a table with cup holders! The Coleman Xtreme insulation provides premium cooling performance. The cooler sits upright in your car with 4 added beverage holders. And there is a two way handle to make it easy to carry. Wheels would be a bonus but we take ours on a trolley!
Coleman care about your safety; so all cool boxes are made of high quality plastics and components. The cool box interior is BPA free and therefore safe to carry food, cold drinks and fruits (compliant to the EU food regulation EN 12456). Also ThermOZONE Insulation contains no CFCs, HFCs or HCFCs, which deplete the ozone.
WHAT IS IN THE COLEMAN – Kühlbox Xtreme 100 QT – Coolbox:
- Holds 160 cans—more than six cases of soda
- Xtreme 5 Technology keeps ice up to 5 days in temperatures up to 90° F (32.22° C)
- ThermOZONE Insulation contains no CFCs, HFCs or HCFCs, which deplete the ozone
- Hinged lid with four cup holders keeps drinks close
- Two-way handles for easy carrying
- Rustproof, leak-resistant channel for no-tilt draining
- Lid accommodates 24-in. (61 cm) elastic cords (not included)
Keep up to 72 cans cool in the car & at the beach.
The Berg 45L electric cool box has great storage capacity and can be used as a cooler or hot box. Its comes with the plugs you need to use in the car or across UK & Europe, which is handy.
It isn’t designed to be flipped on its end and used, it’s not got the right fan for that. You are told not to use cooling packs in this cool box, so you are reliant on its insulation. Its fine up to around 20 degrees or so as drinks are around 4 degree. However it only does to 16 degrees below external temp – bear that in mind if you live in hot places!
Also whilst its got wheels and double handles for easy portability, once full the wheels are not that sturdy. This is the perfect cooler to take camping or leave in your car. However I wouldn’t pick it to take on the beach.
- Large 45L capacity cool box fridge can store up to 72 standard 330ml cans and keep them cold
- Cooling capability of 16°C below ambient temperature. Great for camping
- Heating capability of between 60-65°C. Perfect for keeping take away boxes / food hot
- Portable – Comes on wheels and folding handles for easy transportation. Stronger than cool bag
- Supplied with 240V UK, 220V EU and 12V in-car plug cables.
Cool Box Dimensions: 58cm x 42cm x 45cm
Budget line electric car cool box from a reputable picnic brand.
No bells or whistles on this VonShef Electric cool box, it’s literally that – it will keep your cans and food cool but no ability to keep things heated.
When powered keeps food and drink cool to 8 -12°C. Powered by a 12V DC plug in connector (supplied), making it ideal for use in cars, caravans, camper vans, boats, trucks and more.
Box is deep enough to fit in four 1.5L bottles of water easily and easy to clean as well.
Equipped with a strong carry handle with lid lock – creates a firm seal for optimum cold retention and to prevent accidental warming.
Over all great for picnics or an overnight trip but if you want to use camping etc then pay more for a professional camping cool box.
- SPACIOUS COMPARTMENT – Large 22L capacity consisting of one spacious compartment offers up more than enough room for all your favourite lunches, snacks and beverages and will hold a 1.5 litre bottle in an upright position
- KEEP FOOD AND DRINKS COOL & FRESH – When powered keeps food and drinks cool to 8 -12°C12V DC PLUG IN CONNECTOR – Powered by a 12V DC plug in connector (supplied), making it ideal for use in cars, caravans, camper vans, boats, trucks and more
- CARRY HANDLE WITH LID LOCK – Creates a firm seal for optimum cold retention & security
- MANUFACTURER 2 YEAR WARRANTY INCLUDED
Cool Box Dimensions: 40cm x 24.1cm x 40.5cm
Perfect budget price picnic cool box to keep food warm or cool!
The Andes Large 25L great budget price electric cool box because its also a hot box and you can use it in the car or plug into the mains.
Like most of the cool boxes it doesn’t have a temperature gauge so you just need to check your food to be sure its right temperature. We used the heating element for a date night picnic and the food was still warm (65 deg C) after 2 hours. Cooling wise it gets down to about 5 deg C which is fine for a cooler of this cost!
I do find you get some moisture in this cool box but I put a towel in the base and its fine. Considering how cool it keeps everything I don’t mind this tiny issue.
All in all for the price you really can’t complain it’s the perfect dual electric cool and hot box for anyone new to picnicking.
WHAT IS IN THE Andes Large 25L 12V/240V Cool Box Insulated Cooler & Heater:
- DUAL FUNCTION – 25L cool box with a dual cooling and heating function it is ideal for both keeping your food and drinks cool or keep any hot food purchased at an eating temperature. Will keep food warm for up to 2 hours and warm to 65°C. CE, GS certified.
- OCCASIONS – Perfect for picnics, camping, travelling, festivals, parties, long distance driving, outdoor sports and football tournaments.
- ADAPTORS – Provided with a 220-240V AC mains adaptor & 12V DC car adaptor to keep the cool box running when travelling to your destination.
- LIGHTWEIGHT – A lightweight but strong and robust design helps to protect both the product itself and the food and drink inside, with cup holders on top for complete convenience. This really is the ultimate is cool box design.
- DIMENSIONS – L: 40cm (16”) x W: 29cm (11 ½”) x H: 43cm (17”). Removable inside divider to keep things separate – Large section (L: 20 (8″)x W: 22 (8.5″) x H: 34cm (13″)), small section (L: 22 (8.5″) x W: 12 (4.5″) x H: 34cm (13”)).
Cool Box Dimensions: 40cm x 29cm x 43cm
Top of the range cooler for the picnic pro (but it dont do heat!)
The Mobicool Electric Trolley Cooler is a heavy duty and expensive cool box for anyone who is a picnic pro like us or who campers who might need an extra fridge. This is only a fridge box though for this price i would have thought I got a dual function Cool and Hot Box but no!
I love the easy opening of this cooler so you can see everything in the box or open half up and grab a drink. The water does collect on the cool box lid so again wipe it daily to avoid a lake!
The downside with this electric cool box and most on the market in the UK is they don’t have a temperature gauge on them. That means you have a choice of just ON or OFF for running these and none of the benefits of a temperature switch.
Another issue to mention here is you need to buy an adaptor plug if buying for the UK as it comes with only car adapter and Euro plug. The wheel and adjustable handle make it portable so you can use at the beach etc.
Biggest tip to make this work best is chill your food in the fridge first and the the box will achieve its max 6 deg c cooling faste
WHAT IS IN THE Mobicool DC/AC Electrical Trolley Cool Box W48:
- 12/230 Volt for car and mains outlets – Automatic switching
- Two durable wheels and fold-out Multifunctional handle for easy transportation and fold-away side carrying handles
- Split cover to minimise loss of cold
- High Enough for 2 litre bottles-space for the complete box (30 x 40 x 32 cm)
- Removable divider
- CABLE COMPARTMENT IN THE LID
Basket Dimensions: 30cm x 40cm x 32cm
Buyers Guide - Best Electric Cool Box
There is a huge range of electric coolers and boxes out there in 2020 making it hard to cut through the noise to find what’s right for you. Whenever I am buying picnic equipment I jot down the key things I look for and test so I am getting value for money, durable equipment.
So before you buy be clear on what you need from an electric cooler box and check out our buyers guide below to see what you should look for in these areas:
- Type of electric cool box
- Removable Lid
- Size & Weight
Main types or electric camping cool boxes are:
- 12V in car coolers of varying sizes
- 12V/240 coolers or combi cool and hot boxes
There are two types of iceless electric cool boxes on sale.
There are two main types of electrical cool boxes available. The first operates much the same way your fridge does generating cool air using a motor and compressor. It needs great insulation to keep that cold air in. These are designed to offer a more sustained chill than the traditional cool boxes or the second type of thermoelectric coolers.
These compressor fridges have the option to freeze then you can go for the ‘pro’ option for caravanres and hard core campers and get a Compressor Fridge. These will give you that temperature range and display and can be quieter however for me that’s where the benefits end. This kind of ‘outdoor fridge’ is more expensive, heavy, and hard to clean. I would only consider buying one of these if you want to live outdoors on holiday.
If you want more compact, quieter and cost effective cooler then the thermoelectric cooler is perfect. They cool by running electricity through two types of electrical conductor to reduce the temperature. This is called the Peltier effect and is used mainly in computers to stop them overheating. We prefer the thermoelectric coolers because they can also be used for heating, well actually keeping food warm!
Power - 12V or 12V/ 240V?
Obviously, you cooler needs to have some sort of power source and this will either be 12 V alone or the more useful 12V/240V models. You would be surprised how many products don’t provide you with the proper power cords, so keep an eye out for that. And make sure to check how long the 12V power cord is (if you don’t have a boot based charger you need a longer cable).
The best electric 12V cool boxes come with a power bank so that you can use it when it’s disconnected from the power source. This is great for a day at the beach, country picnic and even camping. Otherwise, make sure to get a product that can take ice packs or is well insulated so when your car is off, and the 12V cooler cant charge, it stays cold.
If you want to manage the power you use with your electric coolbox also look for one with a readable in temperature gauge. This allows you to leave the box closed and insultanted and turn it on as needed. In the UK models these seem to only be found in the high end compressor electric camping cool boxes.
Temperature wise none of the cool boxes we recommend will get below 6 Deg C (if you want freezer capacity look at compressor fridges). Most electric cooler boxes keep the food and drinks between 6-10 Deg C whilst plugged in. Heating wise most hot boxes will maintain a temperature of about 65 Deg C when plugged. in.
Key points to understand or take into consideration when buying your cool box/ combie electric hot/cold box are:
- With a 12V cooler it will not run constantly unless your car is running so how long the cooled temperature remains once the unit is unplugged.
- Can you add in additional ice packs to keep the temperature low if you will have it unplugged for a long time.
- Does it have a split lid so you can access the box without opening the whole thing (split lids help keep the box temperature either heated or cooled longer).
- Does your cooler come with a temperature gauge so you can adjust the temperature as you need to (and save on power). Bear in mind in the UK for a cool box with temperature gauge you will likely need to buy a compressor cooler fridge and they are often over ￡500.
Electric cool box insulation is similar to a standard cooler. They are both designed to retain its temperature. Without this insulation, the electrically-generated cold wouldn’t stay in the cooler. The thicker the insulation the better the box will perform when not plugged in.
Getting a box with great insulation will help the cooler stay cool even when it isn’t directly powered (ie 12V cool boxes). My top tip to keep the box cooled when turned off is keep it closed and locked where possible. This is why the split lid boxes perform so well!
Another factor of insulation is how well the cooler locks in smells! This is something to consider when using the box for several days away. Basically you don’t want to attract bugs and beasties to your tent or caravan with food smells and great insulation prevents this!
Ease of access is a nice thing to have. Choose a cooler that is easy to get in and out of. An easy-open lid that locks in the cold or hot is essential.
Split lids are even better for keeping the box at the right temperature.
Removable lids also help with cleaning after use.
Size & Weight
You need your cool box to fit in as much food and drink as possible for picnicking and still be portable! As we are going to be cramming as much food and drink as possible in these electric picnic coolers make sure to buy the lightest one you can. So point one is check out that weight when empty!
There is a huge choice of sizes in iceless electric coolers so base your choice on what you are going to be putting in it. Is it just for wine, beer and cans or are you needing to take a picnic as well.
Look for thermoelectric coolers that don’t require additional ice packs to give you valuable extra storage space. Just put your food and drink in directly from the fridge and freezer to ensure the temperature remains low for as long as possible.
MOst coolers are measured in Litres so if you need an xxl electric cool box look for one of 90 plus Litres. Whereas a Mini 12V thermoelectric car cooler is designed to take a few bottles or water and maybe a packed lunch and start from 7.5L.
Best Electric Cool Boxes Frequently Asked Questions
What's the difference between a Thermoelectric Cool Box and a Compressor Fridge?
Firstly the way they function differs and I explain in detail under Types above. From a buyers perspective they differ most in terms of price, weight and whether they can freeze, heat or cool.
Compressor fridges are for the pro camper looking for a fridge freezer close to what you have at home. They are pricey, heavy and not easy to cart about and dont last as long as Electric cool boxes.
For the average picnic fan you just need a Thermoelectrical Cool Box. They cool food and drink for hours and remain cool when unplugged and are designed to fit in smaller spaces and be easily portable.
Do these electric coolers need ice packs?
You want to buy a plug in cool box that doesn’t need extra ice or ice packs so you have maximum space for your food and drinks. The reason you are buying an electric cool box is so you can ditch these heavy and poor performing cooling packs.
If you do want to keep stuff close to frozen then add in frozen food or bottles of water to your cool box before setting out.
How cold do most electrical cool boxes get?
Most coolers will reach 6-10 Deg C cooled fully and plugged in. If you want them to freezer to up to -20 Deg C then you need a camping compressor fridge.
How do I clean an electric cool box?
Cleaning your cool box will help it last longer and make sure it doesn’t give off unwanted smells to taint food or put you off your picnic.
Cleaning a cooler is easy. Just use a bleach free cleaner or mild dish soap in warm water and a cloth (no scratchy scrubbers should be used). To dry it a microfiber cloth or paper towels.
Use this to wipe the cooler down inside and out and remember to get in all the tricky areas where mildew or caked messes happen so you avoid mold. If you find a really stubborn area i recommend baking soda, made in to a paste and leave it for 10 mins and wipe away.
Dry your cooler and leave it to air dry before you store it so you wont get a musty pong in it! Even the best electrical cool boxes wont last long if you dont clean them after each use.
Do electric cool boxes always need to be plugged in?
If you buy an electric cooler for car, it’ll work best plugged into your car battery. This won’t damage your battery so long as the car is on. If the car is off, however, it can drain your car battery. This can lead to the unfortunate circumstance of a dead battery and a car that won’t turn over.
Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to keep an electric cooler plugged in for it to work. As long as you keep it closed most of the time, it’ll usually stay cool for a few hours. If you keep opening and closing it, though, it’ll warm up faster. It can help it keep cool longer when it isn’t plugged in if you have ice packs or ice stored in the cooler.