6 Best Portable Car Heater Reviews (2020) – Defrosters Buying Guide

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Sometimes you get cold and you just need a little extra warmth in your life. Sometimes that happens when you’re in your car, especially on chilly fall or frigid winter mornings. That’s where portable car heaters come into play. Instead of waiting for your car to warm up, you can use these types of heaters to warm up your seat or even pump hot air into your vehicle’s cabin.

There are a lot of different options for 12-volt portable car heaters. Some are space heaters, in that they warm the entire cabin of the car; others are designed to focus the heat where you want it and keep your seat warm. Deciding what portable car heater is best for your needs takes research if you want to avoid an impulse buy that you might later regret.

That’s what this article is for. First, it’s going to give you a look at six different portable car heaters with a review of each. It will also give you a brief overview of some of the key features of each model as well. Then you’ll get into the buying guide that is going to help you pick the best portable car heater for you and what you need it for.

The buying guide itself is broken into three main sections. First, you’ll learn how portable car heaters work and the different kinds there are. Then it will discuss some key questions you should look at answering to help you find a good fit, and finally, you’ll get to read some neat options in portable car heaters that you might not have been aware existed.

Portable Car Heater Reviews

Here are six models of car heaters available for purchase that range from models designed to help you defrost your car on icy wintry mornings to seat heaters that will keep you comfortable even when the weather has sub-zero temperatures outside.

Portable Car Heater Reviews
  • 4 Customer Rating
  • Eagle Products
  • BTU: 30,000 BTU
  • Volts/Watts: 12 Volt
  • Dimensions: 16" X 6 1/2" X 9"
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: N/A
  • Warranty: One-Year

Portable Car Heater Reviews
  • 4 Customer Rating
  • BTU: N/A
  • Volts/Watts: 12V
  • Dimensions: 17.6 x 11 x 4.3 in
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: 2.55 pounds
  • Warranty: Manufacturers

Portable Car Heater Reviews
  • 4 Customer Rating
  • Lasko Model 100
  • BTU: N/A
  • Volts/Watts: 200 Watts
  • Dimensions: 3.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 in
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: 1 pounds
  • Warranty: Manufacturers

Portable Car Heater Reviews
  • 4 Customer Rating
  • BTU: N/A
  • Volts/Watts: 12V
  • Dimensions: 7.5 x 5 x 3.7 in
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Warranty: Manufacturers

Portable Car Heater Reviews
  • 4 Customer Rating
  • WIOR
  • BTU: N/A
  • Volts/Watts: DC 12V
  • Dimensions: 10.8 x 7 x 6.6 in
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: 1.55 pounds
  • Warranty: Manufacturers

Portable Car Heater Reviews
  • 4 Customer Rating
  • Sojoy
  • BTU: N/A
  • Volts/Watts: 12V/36 watts
  • Dimensions: 17.4 x 10.2 x 4.6 in
  • Color: Gray
  • Weight: 1.25 pounds
  • Warranty: Manufacturers

Eagle 30,000 BTU 12V Auxiliary Heater

Eagle 30,000 BTU 12V Auxiliary HeaterThis portable car heater is actually designed to replace a broken stock heater core. Rather than use electricity to generate heat, this heater has a 5/8-inch outer diameter heater inlet and outlet designed for your engine coolant to pass through. You do have to install a junction in your coolant lines to generate heat from this heater. The heat from the coolant warms the aluminum core, which the beefy fans can blow over to produce toasty warm air.

The included brackets and mounting kit allow you to mount the heater to several places, from the top of your dash to at your feet in the cabin. Keep in mind that this heater doesn’t have an actual thermostat; instead, it relies on multiple settings for the fans as to how much heat is being blown out. In this, it’s much like if your car’s installed heater was kept on full without blending in any cool air. There are four speeds available for the blowers: Off, low, medium, and high.

You can attach air ducts to the outputs, and those are about 3-inch openings. This makes it easier for you to set up an auxiliary defroster if you like.
The significant drawback to this portable car heater is that it requires your car to be running in order to generate heat. However, once your car is running, the amount of heat it puts out is staggering. There’s also a little bit of mechanical know-how required in order to install the coolant line access.

Key Features:

• 30,000 BTU output using hot water and forced heat
• All metal construction with high-efficiency aluminum core
• Small form factor measuring 16” wide by 9” high by 6.5” deep
• Defrost kit available.

COMFIER Heated Car Seat Cushion

COMFIER Heated Car Seat CushionThis heater is designed to work in both the car and office and can be easily transported back and forth. The warmer is powered by a 12-volt adaptor which can be adapted to work with a standard 120-volt wall plug. One of the best features of this seat warmer is that it takes just minutes to reach peak temperature depending on what setting you have it on. For the low setting, it reaches about 114 degrees Fahrenheit. For the high setting, it will reach about 131 degrees Fahrenheit.

The seat comes with a UL listed thermostat to protect against overly high temperatures and burns. There are two separate heating controls; one controls the seat and one controls the back. Each can be controlled independently. You can also set a timer for the heating pads and each one also operates independently. You can also control everything with the included remote control. The timer can be set for 15, 30, or 60 minutes.

The seat cushion is thick with a soft velour cover. It attaches to the seat with multiple straps and clasps. There isn’t a strap and clasp in the very front to prevent discomfort for your calves and ankles.

Key Features:

• The seat comes with two adaptors for both 12 volt and 120-volt use.
• Comes with overheat protection thermostat as well as a timer to prevent burns
• The heated seat has 3 heating zones to provide full heat from the upper back to the upper thigh
• The seat is designed to fit most car seats and office chairs for maximum versatility

Lasko 100 MyHeat Personal Space Heater

Lasko 100 MyHeat Personal Space HeaterThis space heater is extremely small, measuring in at just over 6 inches tall. It also only pulls 200 watts of power during normal operation but can surge up to 300 watts during startup. This heater only comes with a wall adaptor, so if you want to use it in your car you will have to use a power inverter.

This portable space heater uses a ceramic core to generate heat while the fan blows warm air in the near proximity. According to user reviews, the heater is about 95 degrees when you are close to it, with the heat dropping off to 84 degrees at a one-foot distance, 71 degrees at two feet, and 68 degrees at 3 feet. This highlights that the heater can be quite useful in a car and that there isn’t much danger in running it as there would be for other larger personal space heaters.

Like other portable space heaters that have this form function, the Lasko portable car heater has overheat protection and a cool to the touch exterior. It doesn’t have a thermostat for normal operation, but instead is either on or off.

Key Features:

• Small form factor, measuring just 6.1 inches tall
• Rapid heat fall off as you get farther away, making it safe for continuous operation in close quarters
• Ceramic heater core with overheat auto-shutoff protection
• Heater begins generating heat almost immediately after power-up

Roydve 12V Portable Ceramic Heater/Cooler Fan

Roydve 12V Portable Ceramic Heater Cooler FanThis small heater is extremely versatile with three vent openings allowing you to use this car heater in a multitude of ways. A convenient handle lets you aim the front vent directly so you can get defrosting heat where you need it when you need it. You can also mount it on the dash and either point it at the window or point it towards you.

If it is pointed toward you, the openings on the top will give extra defrosting power in a general direction while helping you keep warm.

The durable ceramic core provides heat quickly, warming to the full temperature within a minute of turning it on. And you can also use this device without the heater, using it just as a fan to help your air conditioning circulate in the car. You can even use it when you’re not using the HVAC in your car, just to prevent still air from getting musty.

This versatile car heater and fan has a small footprint and plugs into the cigarette lighter for 12 volts of power. Whether you put it on your dash for help with defrosting or hold it and point it towards the cold areas of your body, it’s easy and quick to use.

Key Features:

• Ceramic core provides quick heat when you need it
• Heat output is completely optional, allowing you to help cool air circulate in the summer
• 3 outlets give multiple venting directions for versatile use
• Uses 12 volt DC power through the cigarette lighter

WIOR 12V Dual Head Adjustable Car Fan

WIOR 12V Dual Head Adjustable Car FanThese fans are not heaters, but they will help you move the heat around. There are two five-inch fans that can move independently of each other so you can point them in different directions. Because this gadget doesn’t have a heater core that is dependent on the 12-volt power it gets from your car, the fans have more power to work with.

Use them to blow existing warm air where you want it in the winter. Does your defroster need a little help? Point the fans at the corners where the vents aren’t reaching and you’ll see clear glass in no time. Does your back window or side window need clearing? The same thing, point one fan at the window, and one fan at the back and you’ll be able to see as the warm air is blown against the glass.

You can also use these fans in the summer. Don’t waste money and gas running your air conditioning on high. Put the fans between the front and back and help the cold air get to the passengers behind you. Put the fan on the back shelf behind the rear seats and let the passengers point the fans at themselves or wherever they would like cooling.

These quiet fans enhance the existing cooling and heating power of your car and the two independently adjustable fan heads let you or your passengers decide where to focus their energy.

Key Features:

• Fans are adjustable anywhere in a 180 degree half-sphere independently of each other
• Fans are 5-inches in diameter
• Noise level is extremely quiet for such powerful units, maintaining under 50 dB at high power
• Fan shell and blades are made of ABS plastic, ensuring long life and durability

Sojoy Universal 12V Car Seat Heater with Timer

Sojoy Universal 12V Car Seat Heater with TimerThis seat warmer is designed to fit to any standard car seat for most cars. It attaches with three elastic straps and clasps/hooks that will help keep the non-skid backing in place. The seat is thin so it won’t change your seating position; no need to adjust your car seat because of the seat warmer.

It comes with a 12V DC adaptor that fits all cigarette lighters. The cord is attached to the seat warmer at the lower right-hand side (as you’re sitting on it) right near the crease between the seat and back portions. This means you can plug it in without worrying about wires crossing or becoming tangled. There is a convenient in-line control with three settings allowing full control without the need to look at it.

Heat takes only three to five minutes to reach full capacity with a 115 degree Fahrenheit surface temperature. There is an automatic 45-minute timer so you never have to worry that you forgot to turn the heater off. For added security, there is a bright red LED on the cigarette lighter to let you know that you have this seat warmer plugged in.

Key Features:

• Non-slip backing with elastic and hook attachments to keep seat secure
• Fits most vehicles
• Provides heat up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit with up to 45-minute timer
• Total heat distribution with three factory settings: low, medium and high

Portable Car Heater Comparison Chart

Eagle Products12 Volt16" X 6 1/2" X 9"N/ABlack
COMFIER12V17.6 x 11 x 4.3 in2.55 pounds Black
Lasko Model 100200 Watts3.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 in1 pounds Black
ROYADVE12V7.5 x 5 x 3.7 in14.4 ounces Black
WIORDC 12V10.8 x 7 x 6.6 in1.55 pounds Black
Sojoy12V/36 watts17.4 x 10.2 x 4.6 in1.25 pounds Gray

Portable Car Heater Buying Guide

Best Portable Car Heater ReviewsNow that you’ve read the portable car heater reviews, it is time to dig a little deeper into what sets these portable car heaters apart from your typical space heaters. There are three sections here.

  1. First, we’ll talk about how the best portable car heater defrosters work.
  2. Second, we’ll cover some questions you should think about when it comes to thinking about the right portable car heater for your needs.
  3. And lastly, we’ll discuss some options that will help you narrow down the choice from all the car heaters available.

Section One: Portable Car Heaters – How do they work?

For the most part, a portable car heater is just like a space heater for your home or a patio heater. The primary difference lies in how strong they are. That’s because the majority of portable car heaters are powered by plugging them into the cigarette lighter. Unfortunately, that means that a portable car heater is only going to pull so many watts, based on the current amp rating of the fuse in your car and the voltage of the lighter.

Let’s talk about power supplies

Portable car heaters need to get their power from somewhere, and unless you happen to have a fusion generator in the back of your DeLorean, the amount of power available isn’t going to be as much as what’s available in your home.

For most cigarette lighters located in a car, the voltage is going to be 12 volts. Likewise, the most common fuses for lighters in cars peak out at 10 or 15 amps. So the most powerful heater draw that a portable car heater could normally draw is 120 to 180 watts (Remember that watts are equal to volts multiplied by amps). If the heater draws any more than that, it will end up blowing the fuse at best. At worst, because the wires in your vehicle’s electrical system aren’t built to handle that load, you can create a short circuit and start an electrical fire.

So remember that for most portable car heaters that use electricity to generate heat, it’s not going to be a very strong output. The ones that do are best for personal warmth and not to heat the entire cabin. These types are also great for providing a little extra oomph for defrosting an icy window in the morning.

Other personal car heaters have actual plugs which means you need to have a power inverter installed. Luckily most newer models of vehicles have three-prong outlets that come factory installed. You just need to make sure that they are rated for the wattage draw of the heater. For example, the Lasko 100 Series that was reviewed above will pull 200 watts during normal operation but can surge up to 300 watts during startup. So the best solution is to ensure that your power inverter or the plugin your car is rated to that many watts.

Installing a power inverter in your car is extremely easy. For some power inverters, installation is as easy as plugging it into your cigarette lighter. The electric converters and capacitors inside take care of the rest of the work turning 12 volts of DC electricity into 120 volts of AC power.

But for other types of power inverters, especially ones that have a higher draw and support a higher load, you’re going to want to have them hardwired into your electrical system on a separate circuit. You can also use this method to create a separate 12-volt system with better wiring and a better circuit breaker. Wiring that is actually capable of handling higher loads like 200 or 300 watts can be done with a 12-volt independent circuit.

In these cases, if you aren’t comfortable mucking about with your vehicle’s electrical system then you may want to hand the reins over to a professional. But if you don’t mind doing the labor yourself, you can save a lot of money.

Essentially, when wiring in an independent circuit to your vehicle, you are creating an outlet that has a higher gauge of wire so that it won’t melt, short circuit, or cause an electrical fire. You’re also installing a circuit breaker with a higher limit so that your new outlet can draw more amps. You’re still limited to the 12 volts of DC power from the battery, so you want something like a 20 to 25 amp breaker in the line.

Another question you have to ask when installing a new circuit is whether you want it to be continuously on or if you want it only on when you turn your key. Both require attaching the outlet line to a different place in your vehicle’s electrical system.

There is one thing you need to be aware of when installing a separate line like this. You have to be careful of how much power you’re draining from the battery. This is because your alternator will only be able to recharge your battery so much and so quickly. If you aren’t careful, you can end up draining your battery completely, leaving you stranded.

Types of Heaters, How are they keeping you warm?

Best Portable Car Heater ReviewsWhen it comes to keeping you warm, everything in the universe obeys the laws of thermodynamics. Essentially, this says that heat flows from hot areas into cold areas until everything is at an equal temperature. How heat moves from the hot area, like the heater, to the cold area, like the tip of your nose, can happen in three ways: Conduction, convection, and radiation.


Heat radiation is how infrared heaters keep you warm. They work like the sun, in that they send out radiation that travels through the air until they hit something solid they can interact with. In most cases, this solid thing is you, and the radiation warms your skin. Think of it like standing in the sunlight on a crisp spring day. The air is still cool and the wind makes you a little chilly, but when the sunlight hits you, you get warmed up.

Infrared radiation does warm the air slightly, but not by much because the particles of radiation miss the air molecules. Instead, they hit you, the car seats, the dashboard, and those become warmed up. It’s also worth noting that this type of radiation is perfectly safe. It’s called near-infrared, and this type of radiation lacks any sort of ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer. You won’t get sick or become injured from infrared radiation unless you sit too closely for too long and get a regular burn.

The main drawback of radiation heating is that it doesn’t have a very long range. In most cases, you have to be within a few feet of the radiating heat element to feel the heat. And because it uses line of sight radiation, the area of effect is usually quite small compared to the others. A plus to infrared radiation heat is that it’s quick to start up and start warming. Most of these types of heaters only take a few seconds to start pumping out the BTUs.


This method of heat transfer is when some fluid is warmed up and the heat travels from the heat source to the cold area using that liquid. An easy example of convection is when you take a hot bath. Your hot water heater heats up the water (a liquid) which is then carried to your tub. When you sit in the hot water, the heat flows out of the water into you because your temperature is lower than that of the water.

This is important because you need to recognize that air is also considered a fluid, at least when it comes to physics and thermodynamics. So a convection heater uses a fan to blow cold air overheating coils or a hot ceramic core. This cold air picks up the heat from the heater core and then the warm air blows over you. The heat from the warm air flows into you, and the air is cooled slightly so it can be warmed up again.

The main drawback of convection heat is that it relies on the liquid as the method of heat transfer. So if the air is moving around faster than the heater core can heat it, then you don’t get a lot of heat being transferred. Eventually, as long as there isn’t a draft, the entire area will become warm. But if there is a draft that introduces cold air faster than it can be warmed, then forget about it.

One major plus to convection heating is that it feels nice and you aren’t limited to just the side facing the heater getting warm. Compare sitting in a hot tub compared with sitting by a campfire. With the fire, only the side facing the fire gets warm, while with the hot tub, everything is warmed up.


Conduction is when heat flows between something hot and something cold because they are in direct contact. For an example of conduction, think of how a bar of iron starts to get really hot when it’s put into a fire. If you grab the end of the iron that’s not in the fire without a pair of gloves, you’re still going to get a pretty bad burn. Another example is when you use a metal spoon to stir your coffee. After a few minutes of sitting there, the handle of the spoon gets warm to the touch. The metal conducted the heat from the coffee to your hand.

For portable car heaters, you see conduction most often in seat warmers. A small bit of electricity flows through wires. These wires, because of their resistive capacity begin to warm up. The wires get hot and then the heat is transferred to the insulating material around it. You sit on the insulating material and you feel the warmth in whatever part of your body is in contact with the heating pad.

Of course, one obvious drawback to this type of heating is that it requires something to be in contact with the heater. If something isn’t touching it, the heat isn’t strong enough to force convection or radiation heat (unless you are extremely close). So just like with the campfire analogy, while your backside might be getting toasty warm with a conduction seat warmer, your front side is still freezing.


The best types of heaters are hybrids. They use two methods of heat transfer to keep you toasty warm. Like pairing infrared radiation warming with a fan and blowing warm air out as well. So not only are you getting warm from the radiation, but the warm air is also washing over you.

When it comes to portable car heaters, you should figure out what type of heat is best for you. Because car cabins are small, convection heaters would work well for that situation. However, if you’re looking to heat the inside of an RV or provide heat on a boat as it winds its way through the canals to the best fishing spots, you want to choose something that isn’t going to lose heat to the winds that blow.

Section Two: Asking the Right Questions

Best Portable Car Heater ReviewsQuestion One: What are you trying to heat and what is the purpose?

This is probably the most essential question when it comes to figuring out the best portable car heater and defroster. Where are you going to be using the heater, and what is it for?

For example, one of the most common places to use a car heater is of course in the car. But people also use these types of heaters in their RVs, and in their campers, and even on their boats. The type of heater you should get is entirely dependent on this choice.

Then you should think about how you’re going to use this type of heater. Are you looking for help in defrosting that stubborn back window on a particularly icy Midwest winter morning? Do you just want something to keep your backside warm when you slide in so you aren’t sitting on an icy pleather seat? Do you want a heater that will warm up the entire care so you and your kids are breathing out clouds of frozen vapor?

Once you figure out what your primary use for this particular portable heater is, then you can narrow down your purchasing decisions.

Question Two: How important is portability?

With some car heaters, you need to install them in a permanent place. Those that use your engine’s coolant as the source of heat, for example, require that they are in a fixed and mounted position where they won’t be moved from. The reason you can’t move them is because the hoses are of fixed lengths and need to be connected to the coolant lines in the engine. If you move the heater too much, you risk loosening the connections and having a coolant leak.

This type of leak isn’t just dangerous because the coolant is exceptionally hot. It’s also dangerous because you might not even notice it if it is a small leak, and the next thing you know, your vehicle is running without any antifreeze. That will cause problems and could cause your engine to overheat quickly, which leads to an extremely costly repair.

So if portability is a huge factor for you, then you should get one of the smaller heaters that plug into the cigarette lighter. Although 12 volts of power isn’t going to give you a lot of heat, it will give you enough to keep your hands and toes warm, depending on where you have the heater.

Question Three: How Fast Do You Need the Heat?

This is all a question about speed. Do you want heat right away? Or are you willing to be patient while your car warms up? If you want heat right away so you can defrost your car windows or so you can sit and let your backside be warm while you wait, then that will determine what kind of portable car heater you’re looking at.

If speed is the overriding concern, then you want a seat warmer, which will get warm quickly. Or if you want something that does convection heat well, look for a small space heater with a ceramic core. Ceramic based space heaters heat up quickly, especially the smaller ones, which is what you’ll be using in your car.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to wait, then you can invest in a heater that uses the hot coolant from your car engine to warm things up. Those take longer, sometimes about five or ten minutes, but they also pump out much more heat than the smaller space heaters.

Again, there is the tradeoff of heat output versus speed in this case, and deciding which is more important will determine what you use.

Section Three: Let’s talk safety

Best Portable Car Heater ReviewsWhen it comes to heaters of any kind, you have to be safe. When it comes to heaters that are being used inside the small confines of a car, you have to be extra careful about what you use and how you use it. First, here are some general safety tips when it comes to heaters.

Let’s Be Safe

While you wouldn’t think it needs to be said, it does: Heaters of any kind get exceptionally hot and misuse of them or using them outside of their intended purpose can lead to severe injury, disfigurement and even death. Heater coils and cores get extremely hot, some reaching temperatures of 600 degrees or more. Touching them with your bare hand or an exposed body part is asking for a quick and painful lesson in how heat conduction works.

Another thing to be aware of with any heater is that you should never have anything directly in front of the heater. You also want to make sure that any radiation or convection heater has adequate space around the heater. This is to allow the unit to stay cool and to allow proper airflow. Failure to do this can cause the heater to overheat and catch on fire.

If you use a heater in an RV or a camper, make sure that drapes or curtains are kept clear of heaters. These thin fabrics often have a much lower ignition point and can catch on fire easily. And because of the narrow and cramped design of most campers and RVs, evacuation can be difficult or impossible.

If you’re using an electric heater on a boat, be careful about wet areas and touching the heater when your hands are damp. Saltwater is an excellent conductor of electricity. Additionally, inspect your heater more often when you use it near saltwater. This is because the metal connections and fittings will be more prone to corrosion, which could cause severe mechanical or electrical failure when you least expect it.

With conductive heaters like seat heating pads, you need to wear proper clothing when sitting on them. Temperatures of seat heaters can sometimes reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Third-degree burns only take about ten minutes to form when the skin is exposed to 120-degree heat. While you should be able to feel the tingling and pain of an oncoming burn, if you have diabetes, nerve damage, or other types of paralysis, you might not be able to sense the danger in time to deactivate the heating unit.

Additionally, seat heaters, if used too much, can cause toasted skin syndrome. This is an actual medical condition that results in the backs of legs becoming discolored and darkened after spending too much time using a seat heater.

When it comes to using a non-car space heater in your vehicle, don’t. That’s because space heaters designed for the home are much more powerful than heaters meant for use in your car. And because they are more powerful, they need more space around them to avoid fire hazards. You might warm your cabin quickly but at the cost of scorching your seats. Depending on how you have them set up, you could also cause a fire.

Propane fueled space heaters are also popular, but these are also extremely bad ideas for the interior of cars. Consider that not only does burning propane generate a lot of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, but that the heater is also burning the fuel. That means there’s an open flame there as well. The propane burner could easily ignite anything that happened to come near. Imagine if you’re on your boat in the middle of the ocean and that happens.

Your vehicle’s cabin is also not very well ventilated, especially if you’re trying to keep warm. That means that the buildup of oxygen displacing gases can be quick, knocking you unconscious while you’re driving. In any case, propane-fueled portable heaters in your vehicle is a very bad idea and should not be used.

Likewise for kerosene heaters; they should never be used in your car for a heat source. Aside from the buildup of noxious fumes that can cause you to pass out, and aside from the fact that you’re starting an actual fire in your car, there’s the matter of the kerosene to think about.

Any hydrocarbon-based fuel, such as gasoline or kerosene is most dangerous when the fumes are released. This means that the fuel has been turned into an aerosol or a fuel-air mixture. This is the blend that is used in your car to run your engine and it is highly flammable and explosive. So as you’re driving around, the kerosene in the heater is being sloshed around and gradually forming an aerosol, which as soon as it is exposed to a spark will ignite and cause an explosion. This isn’t something you want in your car at all.

Section Four: Portable Car Heater Options

Best Portable Car Heater ReviewsThere are a lot of car heaters on the market, as you’ve seen. And hopefully knowing how they work and what some of the more pertinent questions you should ask have helped you whittle your decisions down to a few models. If you need some more help, here are some features of car heaters that you might not know about and that can help sway your decision one way or the other.

  • Versatility – Some car heaters do more than just heat your car. They can also work without the heater core being active, meaning that you’ve got an extra fan that you can use. A fan that can be used for pushing air around for sure, but also one that can help dry out a towel or a pair of wet socks.

Other car heaters come with adaptors that let you plug them into the wall so you can use them in your home or in your office. These adaptors are basically power inverters that look like cigarette lighters with plugs. You plug it into the wall outlet and it steps the 120 volt AC current down to 12 volt DC current and your heater doesn’t know the difference.

Now you can use your seat warmer on the couch while you’re watching the evening news and you don’t have to turn on your home’s heat. Or you can use it in the office to stay at a reasonable temperature because the office manager keeps the air conditioning set to 66 degrees Fahrenheit in the middle of winter. When you can take your heater with you, there’s no reason to be cold at all.

  • Preheating – Sometimes you just don’t want to go sit in a cold car on a frosty winter morning. That means you need something that you can set in there and not worry about setting your car on fire. For that, look for a small portable space heater that doesn’t kick out too much heat.

These small space heaters will warm the cabin of your vehicle while you wait in the relative comfort of your home. No need to invest in a car starter or something like that. Just start your car and turn on the heater and wait a few minutes. It’s a good idea to let your car warm up anyway to let the fluids and oils get to their prime operating viscosity. That you don’t have to dance and shiver while doing so is just an added bonus.

When you look for a space heater that can do this, you want one that has specific safety features. First, you want one that has an automatic shutoff if the heater tips over. Think of the disaster it would be if the heater tipped over and started blasting heat directly into your seat cushion. At best, you are going to scorch the leather or fabric. At worst, you would start a fire.

Second, you want some sort of overheat protection so that if the space heater gets too warm, it’s going to shut off automatically as well. Imagine something falls near your heater. Your purse tips over next to it or a scarf lands next to it. Rather than overheat and spark and fail, you want a heater that will just shut off.

  • Emergency Conditions – You might not want to think about it, but something might happen and you and your car could get stranded during a terrible snowstorm. In that sort of situation, you want a heater that is going to help keep you warm while you wait out the storm. You should have an emergency kit in your car, but if you don’t, look for a small heater that doesn’t draw much power. You’ll want something that you can curl up with that will help you stay warm but won’t kill your battery.

You don’t want to run your car continuously if you’re in a bad snowstorm because you don’t know if your car’s exhaust is going to be blocked by snowfall. You should get out and check, but if the weather is really bad you won’t be able to. Instead, run your car for about five minutes at a time every half hour or so. That gives any carbon monoxide time to clear. And during that time, your alternator will help to recharge the battery that you’re running down with your cozy heater.


We’ve gone over the basics with you. You know how portable car heaters work and you know how heat is transferred between places. We’ve also talked about some important questions you need to ask and talked a bit about safety and other types of heaters. Hopefully, now you have the tools you need to find the portable car heater that’s best for you.