Today a vehicle power inverter is an urgent need and it is certainly a must-have for any modern motorist. If your power goes out or you need to charge something, an inverter can help you out in a pinch. For those that don’t know, car power inverters work by converting your car battery’s DC output into the conventional AC output that electronics and appliances use. Think of an inverter as something that slaps an electrical outlet into your car—many cars already come with USB ports, for example, but seldom can you plug in, say, your fridge.
With that said, there are many things to consider when choosing the right car power inverter. These factors include the capacity of your car’s battery, the desired output wattage, and the type of appliances you would like to plug into your vehicle. There is also the differentiation between single outlet inverters and inverters with multiple outlets, where the obvious distinction being how many types of appliances you can plug in at one time. Some sensitive electronics might not be compatible with the mechanism of the inverter as well; whether it outputs a modified sine wave (more affordable) or a pure sine wave (closer to a real AC, but pricier) influences the range of applications that come with the product.
There is some technical terminology that is vital to know when it comes to inverters. First of all, the voltages; volts stands for a measure of the difference of electric potential (two points). To explain simpler, it is the amount of energy you get for a certain charge. Basically, it’s the “push” that makes electric charges move.
Most inverters (all but one in our list) are 12V DC to 110V AC, meaning they take the standard 12V direct current found in car batteries and turn it into 110V of alternating current. Direct current (DC) is a charge that moves in one direction, while alternating current (AC) is a charge that periodically changes direction. All you really need to know is that most appliances run on AC—which is provided by outlets around your home—while a car battery emits DC.
The wattage, in turn, is the energy measurement of your device. The higher the watts, the more power it is capable of supplying to your devices; as a result, if it is running at peak performance, it will use up more power as well. If you simply put the wattage in inverters, you will see the limit to what they can do.
Best Car Power Inverters 2020
Once we have outlined the basics of a power inverter, let’s get into the review. In this list are seven high-rated power inverters to consider, ranging widely in output and price. When it comes to automotive accessories such as inverters, being careful is vital; the table below should roughly outline what separates each of these items from one another.
Side note: all inverters on this list are 12V DC to 110V AC, with the exception of the Bestek 200W
1. AKARUI Electy 300W Car Power Inverter — Editor’s Choice
Our first entry comes in the form of a very small and powerful 300W inverter from Akarui. Don’t let its size and relatively low wattage fool you—this product is our top choice of the bunch.
Compact and Convenient
Its small size is comparable to a regular smartphone, making it very portable. Despite this, it offers four outlets—2 USB ports, and 2 regular AC outlets. It probably goes without saying that this power inverter doubles as a power bank that you desperately need when on long trips or when you need to charge a device in a pinch. Like many others on this list, it connects to your car’s battery via a cigarette lighter plug. The innate advantage in this inverter, though, is that you can keep it in your center console or glove box for easy access.
This inverter has an intricate design that adds to its utility and longevity as a whole. A built-in fan cooling system prevents the bank from overheating, while the fuse helps control any potential overloading. Akarui also claims that the inverter is 90% energy-efficient, has great heat control, and offers a variety of protective measures, from short-circuiting to voltage protection.
Of course, you probably won’t be charging large refrigerators and the like, but for things like laptops and phones, this is certain to be a solid choice. It’s worth mentioning that Akarui has an even more compact option for sale, which offers 150W and 1 AC outlet instead of 2.
• Convenient and reliable for portable devices
• Protective design
|• Relatively low wattage of 300W|
2. FOVAL 150W Car Power Inverter — Surprisingly Sound
The second inverter on our list comes in as the small and fairly affordable Foval 150W. Essentially, this is one of the options for those that just want a simple and inverter; with correct and casual use, this one could last a lifetime.
Small But Worthy
This inverter was well worth the money in most cases. It ranks fairly well in the number of critical reviews (that is to say, it had among the least) compared to the rest of the list, and it’s clear to see why. These inverters are quite cheap, very compact, and (from the looks of it), fairly durable as well. This 150W converter is the size of a credit card, has 2 USB ports, and a single AC outlet. The cord length is designed to be just about the length required to conveniently charge a laptop in the rear seats.
To summarize, if you’re looking to charge a small appliance or power something like Сhristmas lights, this product worth looking at it. Its compactness and minimalistic design (as well as tested durability) both speak for themselves; however, so does the price.
To emphasize on the issue with affordable products, this inverter suffers from a small number of issues. Your car battery capacity is an important thing to take note of when using an inverter. Regardless, ¾ of buyers were extremely happy with their purchase, and for good reason; for its price, there is little wrong with this product.
• Convenient and reliable for small-scale uses
|• Only 3 outlets (2 of them USB)|
3. KRIËGER 1100 Watt 12V Power Inverter Dual 110V AC Outlets — Premium Option
Getting Kriëger’s 1100W inverter, you pay for quality. It’s quite hefty in price compared to the others listed here, but it dwarfs all of them in its rated wattage alone. At 1100W, it boasts over double the output of the next highest at 500W. How do customers think about this product?
Expensive But High-Quality
The package that includes the inverter also comes with a remote control (so no need to be near the inverter to control it), a monitor that shows ampere/watt readings, and a set of 3-foot 4-gauge cables. It comes with a 3-year labor and parts warranty, so even with the hefty investment, there isn’t too much risk.
Most users of this product unanimously agreed that it is a high-quality product; the majority of motorists claim that there was some empty promise. Other car inverters might not hold up to their designed output or functionality, but multiple users ran tests and found that this product to be of genuine quality.
Wide Range of Uses
Another thing that takes the Kriëger to the top-rated list of power inverters is its general flexibility and universality. Buyers plugged in anything ranging from refrigerators to solar panels, and there are very little scalding complaints. If anything bad happens, its extended power supply is a big plus in keeping even more sensitive equipment running for hours.
Some customers had anything bad to reveal about the product: it usually had something to do with defective shipments; the inverter wouldn’t turn on, had a busted fuse, or drew a little power. In these cases, you might have to wrestle with customer support a bit.
| • High quality|
• Huge wattage
• Package contains useful extra tools
|• Potentially defective product|
4. BESTEK 400W/500W Car Power Inverter — Mid-Range Performer
The BESTEK 400-Watt inverter is on our list, simply because it advertises multiple wattages in the same product. While the rated output is 400 Watt, BESTEK doesn’t shy away from noting that you can get up to 500W.
On the whole, this product is a mid-range performer. Its price and performance are in accordance with each other, with the power inverter featuring four USB ports and two AC outlets. It’s enough to mention that this perhaps the most solid choice for casual users or road trips, where every passenger gets a USB port with two outlets to spare.
The design is also very intricate; the alloy casing is flame retardant, the cable is designed for fast charging and can withstand up to 5000 insertions/extractions, and the inverter itself is designed to withstand any issues related to charge or temperature.
Nearly ⅘ of buyers rated this product as a 5-star purchase. While that is seriously impressive for a mid-range inverter, there seems to be an odd discrepancy of very poor reviews too. Nearly 10% of buyers gave their experience with the product a singular star; what makes it so hot-and-cold?
The answer lies in the “immaculate” design. To start with, the connector wire is exposed, so it is a potential liability on the road. On top of that, many buyers plugged it in and immediately fried their car battery, found the inverter started smoking, or both.
| • Good price-quality ratio|
• Sufficient outlet amount
• Careful design
| • Defects can be costly|
• Complaints about smoking
5. POTEK 500W Car Power Inverter — Deceptively Powerful
Potek’s 500 Watt inverter is compact and powerful. It has a peak power of 1000 Watts and its lightweight, compact size is appealing for those who want a simple-looking gadget for their car that can save their devices from dying on long road trips or when unexpectedly stuck in traffic.
Great Value on Paper
As described by Potek, these car power inverters have everything you could possibly need. It includes a car cigarette plug outlet, 2 standard outlets, and a USB outlet so you could charge any of your devices on the road. Potek’s power inverter also includes a multi-protection configuration, protecting itself and your gadgets from possible damages due to surges, short circuits, or overheating. Unlike some other inverters on our list, it also comes with several spare parts such as clamps and spare fuses.
Those who have purchased Potek’s 500 Watt car power inverter enjoy the fact that it is also much quieter than most inverters, which can have very loud fans running to cool them down. Despite not having a loud fan, some reviewers have stated that they can use the inverter for several hours without it overheating.
Common Issues Cause Concern
Since there are many positive reviewers claim about this device to be a quality purchase, there are customers who concern about this product, and many of them have the same issues with the inverter. Even though the inverter itself may have an efficient heatsink, its wires are prone to getting hot and even burning, which can render the entire inverter unusable.
| • Quiet for its size|
• Good warranty
| • Wires could be liability|
• Limited number of outlets
• Spotty connector
6. BESTEK 200W Car Power Inverter — Convenience in an Inverter
Our fifth power inverter on the list is sold and comes at an affordable price. Bestek’s smaller power inverter has a sleek design that is perfect if you are looking for an inverter that is not bulky and has a little bit of everything.
Compact and User-Friendly
Most buyers were pleased to find that Bestek’s inverter fits perfectly into their cup holder, making it both convenient and more visually appealing. Its ability to charge 5 devices simultaneously via 2 USB ports, 2 outlets, and a cigarette lighter socket is praised by users who find themselves in a need to charge their laptops or phone in a pinch. This power inverter puts safety first with its auto-shutdown feature.
It has a decent output of 200 Watts with 400 Watts at peak power and can provide continuous AC and DC power for your long trips. Customers also find that it is very lightweight and easy to store. Its 24-inch power cord lets you place the inverter wherever it is most convenient for you.
Not everyone found Bestek’s 200 Watt power inverter to be perfect, though. Numerous customers who had purchased this power inverter reported that some components of the inverter stop working, such as the fan, or the inverter itself breaks entirely. Bestek offers a limited warranty on their product; though it is an 18-month warranty, they will only replace your inverter once if it breaks. It explains that customers received a replacement inverter which also quickly broke, but were unable to ask for a replacement or a refund. There are other issues buyers found with the overall functionality of Bestek’s power inverter as well.
To begin with disappointments, many customers reported that the inverter blew their fuse; one customer had their car socket break entirely where the inverter was plugged in, even after repairing the fuse. Additionally, several reviews state that their inverter cannot truly charge 5 devices at once: though the outlets allow for this, the ability of the inverter to charge a device diminishes significantly if multiple are plugged in at the same time.
The majority of buyers who have purchased Bestek’s 200 Watt car power inverter were pleased with their product overall. However, even at its relatively low price, there is some room for worry regarding the slim likelihood of getting a soon-to-be broken product, and having a limited ability to return it. For those willing to take that small risk, this power inverter is one of the most conveniently designed and multifunctional on our list.
| • Convenient and portable|
• Fits in a cup holder
• Auto-shutdown feature
| • Limited strength|
• Complaints of it being defective out of the box
• Blown fuses not a rarity
7. AMPEAK 400W Power Inverter — Heavy, Small, Practical
Ampeak advertises its power inverter as “powerful and practical.” Let’s take a look in detail.
Ampeak’s power inverter is indeed quite compact, providing more charging ports than similar-sized car power inverters do. With an operating power of 400 Watts and surge power of 800 Watts, this inverter was designed to fit every vehicle with a cigarette lighting outlet. It has a built-in alarm system and automatic shutdown feature to protect your devices, and it has easily replaceable fuses for easy repair. Additionally, Ampeak offers an 18-month warranty.
Many customers enjoy the fact that Ampeak’s inverter can successfully charge multiple devices at a time without slowing or diminishing in power. Another useful feature not seen in other inverters is the fact that Ampeak provides mounting tabs, which customers have found makes it easier to find convenient placement for the inverter. Many observed the fact that the inverter is quality-made and durable; great qualities to have for those using the inverter in rougher circumstances like camping or industrial work.
As for drawbacks
18% of reviewers did not find Ampeak’s inverter to be so pristine, however. As a matter of fact, most of those who had negative comments regarding this inverter state that it simply never worked the moment it came out of the box. Others had the inverter work for mere minutes before it permanently ceased to function. One particularly perplexing note is one customer who remarked that his inverter stopped functioning after only brief use, but upon inspection, none of the components were broken and the fuses were intact.
| • Small for its output|
• 18 month warranty
| • Could be a dud|
• Potentially unreliable
• Highest proportion of 1-star reviews (18%)
8. VOLTCUBE 150W Car Power Inverter — Budget Option
Our final product comes from VOLTCUBE, and it is another low-output inverter suited to small-scale uses. It is practically a mirror image of the first product (the Foval 150W), boasting 2 USB ports and 1 AC outlet. For its low price, it’s a sturdy competitor.
Compact and Reliable
To say this unit is compact would be an understatement; it’s even lighter (albeit slightly) than the Foval credit card-sized inverter. In addition, it converts electricity a fairly quiet level, as some users noted. On paper, it is perhaps the best value power inverter on our list, with its low price and nearly 80% overwhelmingly positive reception. When it does its job, it does it well; the limited number of outlets leaves little room for error in that regard.
As might be expected from a low-price product, it doesn’t stand up to the bigger players in the power inverter arena. There are many criticisms regarding its strength and functionality in general; the adapter plug is noted as cheap and all-plastic, and users note that if you don’t unplug it outside of use, it will overheat and generate noise. In addition, there are several complaints about its range of uses. Some buyers were disappointed to find out that it didn’t work with a lot of their appliances, despite being in the allotted wattage. Suffice to say, you get what you pay for with this compact inverter.
| • Affordable|
| • Weaker than mid-range units|
• Cheap wiring
• Caveats in functionality
• No warranty
See also: Best car solar battery chargers
Affordable and Lightweight
Well, lower wattage is better in a sense. There is less room for massive issues if your unit outputs 150 or 200 Watt, and for uses like charging your phone, the wattage is irrelevant as you simply need to convert 12V DC to 110V AC. The two simpler, lower-capacity car power inverters on our list were the first and last; the Foval and VOLTCUBE 150W products.
Both of these provided reliable, low-intensity use in a reliable format; two USB ports and one AC outlet. Of the two, the VOLTCUBE had higher overall reception, but it was pretty close. There isn’t much to say about these two; if you need to plug in your computer, phone, or any other low-intensity appliances, they are both solid choices. The Foval is more practical and perhaps the best choice on this list, though.
There is also the BESTEK 200W; it is the most unique inverter of all seven products, with its functionality designed around fitting in a cup holder. Despite the novelty, it performed slightly worse than both of the other “weaker” car power inverters. Despite having a cigarette lighter port and two AC outlets, users could rarely use more than a few at once. Essentially, the advantages it has over the 150W products are its design and additional wattage. Despite the fact, it often ran into several issues, so if you’re looking for functionality it might not be the optimal choice.
If you are seeking a device among moderately-priced products, there are car power inverters rated 250 watts and above, there are a few that stood out as genuinely high-quality car accessories. The POTEK 500W and BESTEK 400/500W seemed to be very well-received among buyers. They are both solid choices for anyone that might need to get a little more than the 150W can offer; they do have their downsides, however.
The POTEK has the issue with the wiring to consider, and while it is a problem that many car power inverters run into at some point, it simply might not work for you. On the other hand, the BESTEK has a more damning downside—some users reported smoking and blown fuses any time they connected the inverter into their vehicle. All in all, they both have their downsides, but provide more functionality than the affordable options and are generally well-received.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does my power inverter perfectly mimic wall sockets?
A: Usually, no. Unless you buy a high-end pure sine wave inverter, your item will use a modified sine wave, essentially trying to get as close to being a true AC current. While this could lead to issues, it’s rare that a high-quality modified sine wave inverter will fail you.
Q: Can I use inverters outside of my car?
A: In most cases, no. Car power inverters almost always work via a cigarette lighter plug, so unless you (for some reason) have one in your home, it’s limited to vehicle use.
Q: Will my inverter run with the car engine off?
A: Oftentimes, power car power inverters will store energy; how much they do depends on the product’s capacity and quality. Typically, a high-end inverter can run for an hour or so without a power supply.
Conclusion — Buyer’s Guide
The above hopefully gave a picture of what it’s like to have an electrical source right in your car. All of these inverters feature multiple outlets and are some of the best 12V power inverters on the market. If you’re looking to hook up a power inverter in your vehicle in the near future, take a careful look at what makes each of them unique—for general-purpose use, though, we’d have to recommend the Akarui above the others.