If your vehicle heater is not what it used to be, or you just need a bit more warmth, a stand-alone warmer can be an excellent decision. They are inexpensive and can get you through the winter until spring is in the game. Not only that, many of them have extras like built-in massagers. Stand-alone heaters give you an alternative that can make your ride more enjoyable.
Benefits of Stand-Alone Automobile Heaters
When winter is coming, it is time to make sure that your vehicle is in the proper condition. It is time to check the tire pressure, change the coolant, and have your winter oil changed. You also need to test your heater to make certain that it is working too. A heater is one of the elements that can fail over the summer. If this happens, it could cost you from $300 to over $1,000 to fix, depending on the model and the problem. Besides, some luxury model vehicles come with seat warmers, but this can cost you thousands. You can purchase a heated seat cushion for a much lower amount and get the same benefit. Let’s take a look at some of the top stand-alone heaters available.
Things to Watch Out for in Automobile Heaters
A heater is a simple device. A heating element of some type either heats up the seat itself or heats air and blows it into the cabin with a fan. However, there are some things that you want to consider when choosing one.
- Automatic Off Timer. This is something that you will not think about until the unfortunate occurs. Regardless of the type of warmer that you choose, make sure that it has an automatic timer to turn it off. Otherwise, you can forget to turn the warmer off, and it will drain the battery.
- Power Source. Make certain that the warmer plugs into a 12V battery and will work with your vehicle. Most warmers manufactured in the United States will be the correct voltage. Some are made for RVs, semi-trucks, golf carts, or boats, and they might have a different power rating, so be sure to check this.
- Automatic Temperature. Make sure that the warmer you choose has an automatic temperature control that allows you to set the temperature. Otherwise, you will have to keep adjusting it continually to stay comfortable.
- Quick Warm-Up. Find out how long it takes the unit to warm up. You don’t want to have to wait for the seat to warm up too long on cold days.
- Universal Fit. If you buy a seat cushion heater, make sure that it has a universal fit. Some of them are only made for certain makes and auto models. You also need to check that the straps are strong and will keep the cushion securely in place.
A stand-alone heater is a simple item, but you still might encounter some terms while you are shopping that you might not know.
BTUs. This stands for British Thermal Units. This is a term that describes the amount of heat the unit puts out. One BTU is the amount of heat that it takes to raise one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. The more BTUs, the better the heating element in the unit. This can have an effect on how quickly it warms up and the highest temperature that it will reach.
Massage. Some seat warmer cushions have massagers. These are little spheres that move around and give you a back massage to relieve tension. Some also have a vibrating massage.
Maximum Temperature. The maximum temperature is the highest the heater will go. For safety, you should never buy a cushion that warms to a temperature above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Types of Stand-Alone Heaters
There are several different types of stand-alone heaters, and they all serve different purposes. Here are the most common types.
Window Defrosters. They are small heaters that sit securely on your dashboard. They usually do not heat very high and are only meant to defrost the windshield. They cannot be expected to do a good job of warming the entire cabin.
- Seat Cushion Heaters. Seat heaters stand for a pad that fits over your regular seat. They heat in a similar way to an electric blanket to keep your back warm. Some of them have massagers too. They do not do much for warming the entire cabin temperature of the car, but they will provide some radiant heat. They deliver the heat to where it is needed the most. They work similarly to heated seats that come in luxury vehicles.
- Back Seat Heaters. These heaters work similarly as any home heater that you use to heat a room. They are usually small and can be placed in the front or back seat. This is an excellent option if you have a heater that is not powerful enough the keep rear-seat passengers warm.
Here is a Comparison of the features of the stand-alone automobile heaters in this review.
|Description||Type of Heater||Power Source||Heats Quickly?||Price|
|Kingleting Heated Seat Cushion||Seat Cushion||12V Cigarette Lighter||Good||Low|
|Back Seat Truck Heaters||Back Seat Portable||Hard wire to battery||Moderate||High|
|HealthMate Seat Cushion Heater||Seat Cushion||12V Cigarette Lighter||Good||Moderate|
|Sojoy Universal Smart Multifunction Car Seat||Seat Cushion||12V Cigarette Lighter||Moderate||Medium|
|12V Portable Car Heater or Fan||Fan Type||12V Cigarette Lighter||Moderate||Medium|
|SNAILAX Heating and Cooling Cushion||Seat Cushion||12V Cigarette Lighter||Good||Higher|
|SNAILAX Massage Car Seat Cushion||Seat Cushion||12V Cigarette Lighter||Good||Moderate|
Now, let’s give a more thorough review of our top picks.
This unit has the fastest warm-up time. You can feel the heat in about a minute. It is comfortable and has intelligent temperature control. You choose the temperature that you want, and it will turn on and off automatically to maintain that temperature. It will only warm to a maximum of 60 degrees C (140 degrees F), so it is safe. It is a universal seat cover and will fit any make or model of the vehicle.
|• Fast warm up|
• Automatic temperature control
• Can reach maximum allowable temperature
• Good value for price
|• Not much padding|
• Does not cover whole seat
This back seat model is convenient and is a good option when you do not have good heat in the back of the vehicle. It is made for supplemental heat, not as a replacement for your regular heater. You have to connect it directly to your battery with the wiring. You will need some tools and minor electrical skills. It is lower watt and will not harm your battery. It comes with a 20-foot wiring harness and has an in-line 30-amp fuse. This is made for truckers with a sleeping cab who just need a bit of extra heat.
|• Low watt, battery safe|
• Hardwired to battery
• Good for supplemental heat
• Heats entire cab
|• Requires tool and electrical skills|
• Not a replacement for regular heater
This cushion heater is made from soft velour. It is a good choice for a lower-price cushion heater, but it does not have as much padding as some of the more expensive ones, and it only gets up to about 114 degrees Fahrenheit, but that is just about the perfect temperature. This is a good alternative if you want something affordable.
|• Simple to work|
• Comfortable and soft
• Heats to 114 degrees Fahrenheit
|• Padding not very thick|
• Simple, no frills
There are several things that we liked about this one. First, it has three settings so that you can choose your temperature range. Secondly, we like it because it has a 45-minute off-timer. You will have to turn it on again if you are on a long trip, but you do not have to worry about leaving it on and draining the battery. This one had a quick heat up and warmed up in about 3 minutes. The heat distribution is even, and it is comfortable.
|• Quick warmup|
• Three settings
• Automatic off timer
• Comfortable, even heat
|• Ave to search for cord when timer kicks off|
• May not fit all automobile models
This heater is made to heat the windshield and help it to de-ice. It is not meant to heat the entire automobile interior. It sits on the dashboard and begins heating in about a minute. However, this unit also works as a cooling fan, too. It works better as a heater than a cooler. This makes it easy to remove ice from the windshield. If you wait long enough, ice will simply melt, and you do not have to scrape. To do the entire windshield, you will need to move it around and redirect the heat to different areas.
|• Heats quickly|
• Securely attached to dashboard
• Easy to use
|• Works better as a heater than cooling|
• Directed heat, does not heat whole windshield
This heating and cooling cushion is one of the heating and cooling cushions that we like the most. It works well in both heating and cooling modes. It can connect to a 12V and a 24V battery, which means that you can also use it in a boat or truck. It has good padding and is comfortable. With this one, you can choose to direct the heat where you need it, such as the lower back or upper back. This one keeps a steady temperature. It also has an automatic shut off, too.
|• Keeps heat well|
• Can provide zone heating
• Has automatic timer
• Can be used in semi-truck, boats and RVs
|• Seat may be a bit long for some|
• Automatic shut-off timer needs reset often
We saved the best for last. If you are going to get a heated seat cushion, why not get one with a massager? This one has a vibrating massage with rolling balls at the major stress points. It massages the lower back, upper neck, shoulder blades, and upper legs. That is all the points that need it when you are driving. It also does zone heating and has three different heating pads to keep you warm. You can direct the heat where you need it. It has an automatic shut off too, so it protects your battery. This one is comfortable and is our favorite by far.
|• Heats quickly|
• Has massagers
• Offers many choices in settings
• Has automatic shut off
• Comfortable padding
|• Massagers might not hit everyone at the right |
• Avoid working controls while driving
Here are some of the most Frequently Asked Questions about automobile heaters.
Are stand-alone automobile heaters safe?
For the most part, stand-alone heaters are safe when used properly, and some common safety precautions are taken. For instance, make sure that the heater is sitting level and in a place where it cannot be knocked over or have beverages spilled on the warmer. Also ensure to keep flammables, like paper, away from them. On some units, the surface can become very hot, so make sure to use caution around children.
How big of heater do you need?
The size and type of heater that you choose will depend on the size of your vehicle and your needs. For instance, if you travel with someone in the back seat, you will want a warmer that is large enough to provide them comfort too.
What is the power source?
The majority of heaters come with a plug that you insert into your cigarette lighter. Some are battery-powered, and others use a tiny container of propane as the heat source.
Will it drain the battery if left on?
If you have an electric heater that plugs into the cigarette lighter, it pulls power directly from the battery. If you forget to turn it off, it is the same as leaving your headlights on. Make sure to choose one that has a timer that will shut the unit off after 30-90 minutes, in case you forget.
Our Best Choice
This review gives you many great choices when it comes to an alternative heat source for your car. Out of all of them, we like the SNAILAX massage seat cushion. It was the most comfortable, heated quickly, and the massage feels great. You would pay thousands of extra dollars for a massaging, heating, and cooling seat on a new automobile. This is an excellent alternative.
Whether you need a stand-alone heater because yours is broken, or because you simply want the comfort of a heated seat, the most important factor is finding the one that suits your needs best. The least expensive is not always the best choice. When it comes to alternative heating sources for your vehicle, the options in this review are all less expensive than repairs or the cost of these amenities in a new automobile.