the best power inverter for your car

The Best Power Inverter for your Car

A power inverter is a very handy device that allows you to use electronic devices on the road at times when there isn’t always electricity available.

With devices we mean almost everything you can think of: televisions, heaters, cooking equipment, power tools, entertainment systems… to name just a few! 

Any device that runs on AC power will be requiring an inverter if you intend to attach it to a car to charge or power.

It’s a device that can make life better for campers, businessmen and recreational users alike. 

It can be difficult to know exactly where to start when trying to find the best power inverter for you car, so we're here to help you figure out the perfect power inverter for your situation.

Before we get on to recommending the very best car power inverters, we'll make sure you know everything you need to know, to make the best buying decision.

Overview of our Favorite Power Inverters for your Car:

Product

Rating

Watts

Outlets

Color

Buy Now

Foval 150W

150W

1

Red

BESTEK 300W

300W

2

Red

Ampeak 400W

400W

2

Black/Orange

Quesvow 1000W

1000W

3

Red

How Does a Power Inverter Work?

It’s difficult to understand what a power inverter is if you don’t have a good understanding of how power works. Car batteries provide DC voltage, while most consumer electronics work on AC power. Let’s take a closer look at power currents. The voltages work together to conduct and transmit electrical energy.

DC Voltage Direct current voltage is a constant flow of electrons in one direction.

AC Voltage Alternating current voltage changes in an oscillating repetition to make waves. An upwards curve indicates the flow in a positive direction while a downwards curve shows the current moving in a negative direction.

This is where the power inverter comes in - car batteries provide DC voltage but with a car power inverter device in use, AC devices can be used in your car. Inverters do this by switching the polarity of DC power sources to create a square wave that works with AC devices. Inverters may include additional components to create a better sine wave as most consumer electronics work optimally with a pure sine wave.

Pure Sine-waves vs Modified Square-wave Inverters

A pure sine-wave inverter will perform better while a square-wave inverter delivers less advanced power conversions. For this reason, pure sine-wave inverters will be a more costly choice although it might be worth the investment as less energy will be consumed, with a better AC power output. Modified sine wave inverters work well with most light consumer electronics.

Why are we mentioning this? Well, poor waveforms can interfere with the performance ability of your appliances. Aside from potential overheating and damage, a weak power inverter can cause permanent damage and malfunction. It can also cause inverter noise and usually has more limitations in terms of power output and compatible devices.

Hooking up a Power Inverter

Inverters also come in different sizes with some being small enough to insert directly into the cigarette socket. Other inverters might need to be placed under car seats and connected with longer extension cords. Inverters should never be placed in direct sunlight, wet places or heat sources.

Power inverters can hook up to a car battery in different ways. That can include powering devices through the fuse panel, connecting it directly to the battery, using a cigarette lighter port as mentioned above or even connecting with a 12v accessory socket. It is important to note that inverters connecting through cigarette lighters or 12v accessory sockets are limited to maximum 10 amp draw.

Doing the Math

There are two things that need to be determined when choosing a power inverter for your requirements:

  1. Determining the power requirements

The power requirements for a device can be determined using the equation

Power(watt) = Current (amps) x Voltage (Volt)

Multiply the input amps and volts of a device to determine the watt usage. The wattage of most devices can also be found online. 

     2. Determining the fuse rating/circuit protection

Fuse rating (A) = Power requirements (watt) * Back up hours (in hrs) / Battery Voltage (in volts)

The power requirement of a device multiplied by the amount of hours the device will need to be charged, divided by the voltage output of the car inverter, will supply the capacity that your battery will require.

Keep in mind that many devices will list both continuous and peak power outputs. Peak output refers to the wattage that an inverter can supply for a limited amount of time only. Continuous output is the average wattage that a power inverter will supply as the limit for normal operation. A device that draws a combined total will require an inverter that has the same total continuous output. An inverter with an equal peak total will not be sufficient to power the device.  

What to Look for when Choosing the Best Power Inverter for your Car 

The variety of car power inverters available to purchase is absolutely overwhelming. They can be purchased in stores, online and even in auto parts shops. They are available in all price ranges so there should be something for your budget. There are also varying power capacities to suit different needs - in general, there’s just a lot of points to consider so when choosing the right power inverter for your car, think about the following.

Intended Use

The first factor to consider is the intended use for your car inverter. If you’re looking for an inverter to power larger devices, it’s better get a car inverter that connects directly to the battery. Smaller devices won’t need more than an inverter that plugs into a cigarette socket.

Are you looking to power more than one device at a time? Then it might be a good idea to look for a model with multiple outlets. If you use your cigarette lighter socket for other uses, perhaps it would be better to get a hard-wired inverter. Switching between cars? Perhaps a portable, small-sized inverter is best after all. Deciding on the intended purpose for your car power inverter can make your search a lot easier.

Where will the Inverter be used?

Cars, SUVs and minivans are more suitable for compact and lightweight inverters. Good devices to use with this class of inverters include cellphones, media equipment and laptops. Trucks, boats and RVs have a much bigger power output and can power items such as cooking equipment, televisions and music systems. Since you are selecting a power inverter for your car, it is important to note that there is a limit to the amount of power that can be inverted.

Maximum Current

Cars generally use 15A or 20A currents. Older cars will often only be able to handle 10A fuses. When purchasing a power inverter for your car, keep in mind that a high power inverter or electrical appliances that require more voltage could blow a fuse or do serious damage to both the vehicle and appliance. Generally, a 12-volt cigarette lighter socket will draw a 120-volt alternating current and has a maximum safe load of 150 watts for a power inverter.

Smaller digital items like laptops, tablets, cameras and cell phones require low wattage and are compatible with most car inverters, especially the pure sine wave inverters. Heating appliances like heaters, hair dryers and other high wattage appliances should not be plugged into car power inverters.

High-power electrical appliances over 150 watts are best charged by connecting the power inverter directly to the car battery. It’s a good idea to employ safety precaution and the the capacity of your car battery to ensure that the battery is not overloaded. An exhausted battery can damage the vehicle and cause the battery to ignite.

Safety Precautions

With cheap car inverters, you get what you pay for - an underperforming modified square wave sine. In most cases, a cheaper car inverter will be sufficient for charging appliances but may be incompatible with others. Do your research and read online reviews to make sure that your appliance will be compatible with a cheaper model.

If you are using an older vehicle model, make sure that you plug out any power inverter devices once the car is switched off. Power inverters will continue to consume electricity and could make your batteries flat if left plugged in - even when no appliance is connected.

Choosing the wrong inverter for your car can lead to problems including a blown cigarette fuse, drained car battery, malfunctioning of warning lights on the dashboard and a triggered airbag light due to under-voltage.

Most units have an alarm to warn you of lowered power sources but it might be worth the investment to get a unit that shuts off automatically when the current being transferred is too low.

Best Car Power Inverter for your Laptop

Always make sure that your laptop computer is compatible with whatever power inverter you plan to use for charging purposes. If you are unsure, checking with the computer manufacturer or searching online are good places to start. 

Check the fuse size of your car lighter socket

Modified sine wave inverters are much cheaper but could lead to interference and broken displays on computer screens and printers. Pure sine wave inverters are the safest type of power inverter but cost significantly more. When choosing a power inverter, consider the fuse size of your car’s lighter socket. This information can be found in the vehicle owner’s manual and should look something like this: 10-amp 12-volt lighter socket; 15-amp 12-volt lighter socket; 20-amp 12-volt lighter socket. Most newer models of cars have 15 amps, while large SUVS and trucks often have 20-amp sockets.

Check the wattage of your device

The wattage of a device can be found by multiplying device amps by volts. Simply check the specifications of the device to find the amount of amps and plug this into the Amps x Volts (120 volts for a 12-volt lighter socket)= Watts equation. For example, a 2-amp device will consume 240 watts= 2 amps x 120-volt.

Power Inverter Features to Consider

Once you are armed with the fuse size of your car’s lighter socket and the wattage required by your device or devices that you would like to charge, you are ready to start shopping! Features to look out for include:

  • Size and weight: choose something that will be practical for the intended use. If you are looking for a power inverter to use on vacation or for work trips, smaller power inverters that are portable and can be plugged into any vehicle would be the ideal choice.
  • Protection: devices that have safe charging features and built-in amp limits will protect your device from damage including overheating, under- and over-voltage charging and short-circuiting.
  • Durability: most power inverter devices are built with strong outer casing to protect against bumps and damage. These are good features to look for as your device will last much longer. Integrating fans for cooling will help prevent shortages and make your device last longer as well.
  • Outlets: some devices have multiple charging outlets and even USB ports for USB-compatible devices. Make sure to check both the continuous and instantaneous wattage provided by the inverter.

Reviews of our Favorite Power Inverters for Cars 

BESTEK 300W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Car Inverter with 4.2A Dual USB Car Adapter


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Quality

This power inverter has durable metal housing and a fan to prevent from overheating. It’s the perfect travel size and has enough ports to charge multiple devices all at once.

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Price

Nothing to fault here - this is a good budget buy that still offers value and quality.

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Our Rating

The Bestek power inverter is functional, compact and can charge more than one device at a time. It can be attached safely to both the car’s cigarette lighter socket and the car battery. 

Our choice for the best power inverter to charge a laptop in your car is the Bestek 300W power inverter. With two AC outlets and an additional 2 USB ports, multiple devices can be charged at once.  The inverter delivers a continuous DC to AC power at 300 watts when connected to the car battery and safely provides up to 150 watts when plugged into the cigarette lighter socket.

We love the size of this device: it’s about as large as an iPhone and is incredibly portable. It has a safety feature to ensure safe charging without short circuits or overheating and provides fast charging for any suitable device.

Remember to plug the device out completely when not in use - even if it is switched off and the car is off, the power inverter can still draw power and drain your car battery. Never place the inverter in sunlight or near heat-sensitive items.

PROS

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    Durable metal casing
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    Built-in voltage protection
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    Multiple outlets

CONS

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    For DC 12-volt and car use only
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    Not compatible with high-power devices
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    Modified sine wave

Foval 150W Car Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Converter with 3.1A Dual USB Car Charger


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Quality

Weighing just about 8 ounces, this super-portable inverter is the size of a credit card. With an aluminium shell, durable metal housing, a silent fan for cooling and surge protection devices, Foval’s 150W offering is great for charging essentials on any trip.

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Price

For the power this inverter offers great value for money

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Our Rating

Convenient sizing, portability and pocket-friendliness make this Foval 150 W inverter a top pick for your car. The inverter also comes with a 16 inches long cable that lets you comfortably work in the rear seat while being plugged into the car cigarette lighter port.

The inverter comes with two usb ports and an ac outlet, that can give a total current output of 3.1 Amps. It also comes with a built-in fuse for protection against charges and is built to override overvoltages, overcurrents and other abnormal scenarios.

The built-in silent fan prevents overheating. The portability of the inverter makes it a versatile choice for camping, hiking and road trips.

PROS

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    Portability
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    Built-in overcurrent and overvoltage protection
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    Silent fan

CONS

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    Low power device
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    Current output restricted at 3.1 Amps

VOLTCUBE 150W Car Power Inverter 12V DC to 110V AC Converter with 3.1A Dual USB Car Adapter


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Quality

With an attractive blue coloring, durable metal casing, low-noise fan to prevent overheating and fuse protection, the 150W inverter offering from Voltcube is well-suited for charging devices on the go.

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Price

A neat price for a neat, pocket sized car inverter

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Our Rating

The Voltcube 150W inverter is pocket-friendly, portable and comes with multiple outlets (2 USB, 1 110V AC). This makes it the perfect choice for charging on the go. The 17 inch long cable that comes with the inverter also enables working comfortably from the rear seat. 

One of the USB ports offer 2.1A output, enabling fast charging. The inverter comes with overcurrent protection, and is not meant for operating power hungry appliances like hair-dryers, curling irons and heaters. 

PROS

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    Portability
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    Built-in overcurrent and overvoltage protection
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    Fast charging

CONS

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    Low power device
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    Not suitable for operation with 24 V DC outlets
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    No overvoltage protection

Enkey 150W Car Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Converter with 3.1A Dual USB Charger


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Quality

Another versatile inverter in the under 20 dollars price range, this dual USB charger is equipped with robust construction, comprehensive protection and noiseless cooling.

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Price

With such a low price, this is great value for money.

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Our Rating

This car inverter provides multiple 110 V AC and USB outlets for use with multiple devices. Robust metal casing, noiseless cooling systems and overcurrent protection make this a very safe device for operation inside your car. The voltage protection capabilities enhance versatility. 

PROS

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    Portability
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    Budget-friendly
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    Overcurrent, overvoltage and overheating protection

CONS

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    Cannot be hooked to car batteries
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    Not suitable for power hungry operations

Ampeak 400W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Car Inverter with 3.1A Dual USB Converter


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Quality

No bigger than an iPhone, this Ampeak offering comes with multiple outlets (dual USB 3.1A, two 110 V AC), overcurrent, overvoltage, surge and overheating protection. Additionally, since it is capable of supplying 400 Watts, this inverter is suited for running moderately power hungry appliances.

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Price

Although not in the very lowest price bracket, the Ampeak inverter justifies its price.

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Our Rating

This Ampeak inverter is conveniently sized, conveniently priced and designed for use on the go. With all round surge protection, in-built fuses and noiseless fans, it is robust and has electrical insulation. The inverter also has an audible alarm to indicate whether the device is malfunctioning. It comes with battery clip cables in addition to a plug compatible with the cigarette lighter port, thereby enhancing its versatility.

At this price point, you will be hard pressed to find an inverter that is lighter, more portable and provides such high power output capability. Multiple appliances can be plugged in at once, making this a great choice for camping and road trips. 

PROS

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    Portability
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    Built-in protection
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    Can be attached to the car battery as well

CONS

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    Not compatible with power hungry appliances with high surge demands

​Duracell DRINV400 High Power Inverter, 400 Watt, Black


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Quality

A compact portable 400 Watt inverter with multiple AC and USB ports, this Duracell offering is built for durability and long life. It is protected against overcurrent, overvoltage and overheating.

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Price

We'd go as far as to call this inverter a bargain

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Our Rating

Equipped with a power saving on/off switch, two three-prong AC outlets, one USB port (2.1 A) and durable metal casing, this Duracell inverter is robust, portable and extremely versatile in terms of versatility. The 400 Watt capability ensures that you can operate multiple devices at once and the fact that you can hook the inverter to the car batteries as well, enhances its versatility. 

The inverter is well-equipped with voltage and current protection making it safe to operate in your car. It is well-suited for use with electronics, hand-held tools and other equipments away from conventional AC power.

PROS

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    Portable
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    High power output
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    Overcurrent, overvoltage and overheating protection

CONS

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    Not compatible with power hungry appliances with high surge demands

​Quesvow 300W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Converter with 4.8A Dual USB Car Charger Adapter-Red


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Quality

An attractive red color, durable construction and portability make this Quesvow 300 Watt inverter well-suited for operation in your car or SUV. The inverter is equipped with voltage, current and temperature protection.

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Price

Priced very reasonably for it's features, this inverter is pocket-friendly.

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Our Rating

This portable inverter plugs into the cigarette lighter port and has a handy long cable for ease of use. One of the USB ports is equipped with fast charging capabilities, enhancing the versatility of the inverter. An Automatic Temperature Controlled (ATC) fan ensures that the temperature of the device never exceeds 38 degrees. This makes the quesvow offering a popular choice for operating essential appliances on the go.

The inverter is well-equipped with voltage and current protection making it safe to operate in your car. It is well-suited for use with electronics, hand-held tools and other equipments away from conventional AC power.

PROS

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    Portable
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    High power output
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    Overcurrent, overvoltage and overheating protection

CONS

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    Cannot be hooked to car batteries
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    Not compatible with power hungry appliances with high surge demands

​Quesvow 1000W Car Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V 3 AC Outlets Home Car RV Solar Power Converter for Household Appliances in case Emergency, Hurricane, Storm and Outage


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Quality

This inverter is housed within a durable case, is extremely portable and can deliver upto 1000 Watts, making it suitable for operating power-hungry devices.

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Price

This is one of the steeply priced inverters but the quality of the product justifies its pricing. 

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Our Rating

This Quesvow inverter has three different AC outlets that can continuously deliver 1000 Watts. It has a peak power withstanding capability of 2000 Watts, making it suitable for high power operations.

The inverter is equipped with voltage, current and overheating protection, making it an ideal choice to be carried to camping and hiking trips. This inverter can also be hooked onto your vehicle’s batteries to provide emergency power at home during power outages.

PROS

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    Portable
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    High power output
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    Can be hooked to car batteries

CONS

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    Some report that it's power hungry

​EBTOOLS Car Power Inverter, 500W/1000W Inverter 12V DC to 110V AC Car Converter with 2 AC Outlets and 2.1A USB ports


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Quality

This portable inverter is lightweight, housed in a durable metal case and is well-suited for high power applications. Equipped with voltage, current and overheating protection, this EBTOOLS product pays great attention to safe operation.

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Price

This is a budget-friendly buy, great value for money.

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Our Rating

The EBTOOLS car inverter is equipped with multiple AC outlets and USB ports. Both cigarette lighter and battery clip plugs are present and hence the product can be used to power a number of appliances in the outdoors. The inverter can be bought in both 500 W and 1000 W configurations according to your specific power needs.

It has two replaceable 40 A fuses for overload and short circuit protection. Fast charging is possible. The durable aluminium body ensures that the product has a long life. 

PROS

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    Portable
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    Budget friendly
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    Can be hooked to car batteries

CONS

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    Suitable for 12 V DC outlets only