Anyone who lives or has travelled through a cold country will know that driving for long periods of time in the freezing cold is not fun at all. Worst still, if you own a large motor home such as an RV, it’s important that you’re able to safely stay warm whilst in the vehicle. Luckily, there are lots of different solutions out there that provide warmth for your vehicle. Whether it’s heated blankets or small portable car heaters, we have scoured the internet to find the best options on the market for you and your vehicle.
If after you read our recommendations you’re still finding it tricky choosing between the different products, don’t despair! We have written a portable car heater buying guide which will help you look at what we believe are the most important features as well as highlight the benefits and how to use them safely. We also answer your most commonly asked questions such as: how safe are portable heaters? How long do they take to work?
The Best Portable Car Heater
Thought to be one of the most popular portable heaters in North America, this liquid propane heater is perfect for heating small spaces such as RVs and cabins. This portable car heater features an integrated fan which increases the capacity of the unit by combining radiant heat with convection style heat to give you the ultimate warmth. There are two swivel regulators in the unit, giving you the ability to adapt the usage: either use with a disposable cylinder or to a remote gas supply (with an additional single hose and filter not included). This heater is simple to use and totally safe. There’s a special feature called an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS) as well as an accidental tip-over safety shut off for added safety.
4,000 – 18,000 BTU Radiant Heater For Spaces Up To 450sqft
Indoor & Outdoor Use
- BrandMr Heater
- Weight17 pounds
Connects To Two 1 Lb Cylinders
Automatic Low Oxygen Shut Off System
Heats Up To 450sqft
Heater May Shut Off At High Altitudes
Not Available for Canada/Massachusetts
If you are looking for a safe electric car heater then have you considered an electric blanket? This Car Cozy Blanket has been specially designed to be used inside a vehicle and simply plugs into your 12 Volt power outlet and warms you up in just a matter of minutes. Impressively, the blanket has a decent 58” x 42” size which is large enough to cover two people. There’s also an integrated safety timer which shuts off after 30 or 45 minutes and automatic temperature control. This 12 volt heater is safe to use in your car or RV and is ideal for freezing mornings during winter and perfect for children and passengers sitting on the back seat during longer journeys. Made from 100% soft polyester fleece, this super soft blanket offers comfort and warmth whether plugged in or not.
Super Soft Blanket
100% Polyester Fleece
Large Size (58” x 42”)
12 Volt Blanket
- BrandCar Cozy
- Weight1 pounds
Comfortable To Use
Perfect For Passengers
Doesn’t Heat Up Entire Vehicle
This auto heater is absolutely perfect for use as a secondary heater in a home or as a primary heater in a cabin or large vehicle such as an RV. It can heat a space up to 200sqft and can be wall-mounted or used as a portable car heater. You won’t have to worry about safety with this heater as it features a shut-off valve which prevents accidental non-ignitions fuel discharge. This heater is built to last too and promises 20,000 starts. You can adjust this heater from 3200 – 6000 BTU/hr and the catalytic heating is 99.98% efficient in comparison to flame heaters which are said to waste around 45% of heat produced and are not safe for use in a vehicle. There’s no fan inside this heater which means that it’s a super silent option for your RV.
Safety Shut-Off Valve
No Electrical Drain Or Battery Connection
Ideal For Boondocking & Dry Camping
- Weight14 pounds
Silent (No Fan)
Not Safe For Small Vehicles
If you’re looking for an electric car heater that won’t break the bank then this heated car seat makes a fantastic option. The seat itself has a universal size which can fit almost any vehicle with DC 12V input. This is one of the most comfortable ways in which you can warm yourself up in a cold car – in fact, you’ll be warm in around 3 mins as the seat heats up fast and boasts a good even distribution of heat. There are three settings: high, medium and low, so you can adjust the temperature to suit your needs. The seat can reach up to 120 fahrenheit on a 45 minute timer.
This non-slip cover is simply attached using an elastic hook fastener and has been manufactured from breathable, thick polyester for extra comfort.
Heated Car Seat With Three Temperature Settings (Low, Med, High)
Heats Up In x 3 Mins
- Weight1.25 pounds
Doesn’t Heat Up Entire Vehicle
Depending on your car heater requirements, this little device could be perfect for you. This small heater has been designed for up to 10 mins use to quickly blast your car with hot air. It hasn’t been designed for prolonged use but don’t let that put you off. This little heater plugs into your cigarette lighter socket and is ideal for removing ice and frost from your windshield. Not only that but it will give your car a nice dose of hot air too. The professional design has three air outlets, has a handy rotating bracket and is made from ABS, making it super durable. It’s super easy to install too and has a built-in fuse which automatically cuts off the power if there are any safety hazards.
Easy To Use Car Heater
Can De-Ice and De-Fog Your Car
Strong & Durable
- Weight13.6 ounces
Perfect For Defogging
No Prolonged Use (No Longer Than 10 Mins)
This car heater may be small but what it lacks in size it sure makes up for with power. This is a powerful little beast that can be used in almost any vehicle. It’s really easy to install and mounts under the dash or on the floor. Perfect for warming up your vehicle fast or simply defogging your windows, this heater can deal with a variety of low temperature related issues.
Small & Powerful Car Heater
900 Watts – 120 Volt AC
- Weight3.04 pounds
Compact Portable Heater
If you’re looking for the best portable car heaters for your golf buggy then you’ve found it here. This small but powerful heater packs quite a punch when it comes to heating up a small space and boasts 4000 BTUs and can run for around 5.5 hours. As a safety measure the heater contains an oxygen depletion system and tip over switch and the design features a wind-resistant protective screen which means that it’s perfect for outdoor use.
Compact Golf Cart Heater
5.5 Hours Run Time
Oxygen Depletion System
- BrandMr. Heater
- Weight1.5 Lbs
Fits Into Most Cup Holders
1 Lb Pound Propane Tank Not Included
Outdoor Use Only
This electric car heater hooks directly into your vehicle’s battery, making it one of the most convenient heaters on our list. The nice thing about this particular product, is that you can use it hot or cold. Use the heat setting to warm up your RV or defrost your windows or the cool setting for those warmer days.
Small Ceramic Heater Fan
Cool & Heat Setting
25 Amp Rating
Includes Installation Hardware
- Weight3 pounds
Can Be Used Hot Or Cold
Requires 30 Amp In-Line Fuse
This 12V heater is perfect for adding extra heat during the colder months and can be used in cars, RVs and more. It has a clever design that uses air from your vehicle, which means that it is only operational when your engine is running. This backseat heater produces 1100 BTUs of immediate heat and is idea for slightly larger vehicles where the main source of heat cannot reach. It’s simple to install and you can mount it wherever is convenient. It’s also 100% efficient so doesn’t waste heat.
12V Car Heater
Works With Your Car’s Battery
Two Year Warranty
- BrandBack Seat Heat
- Weight4.2 pounds
Heats Up Hard-To-Reach Places In Vehicles
Easy To Use
Hard Wiring Required
Best Portable Car Heater Buying Guide & FAQ
There are lots of different car heaters out there and not all of them will be suitable for your car because not all products are made equally. You will find that some heaters have been specially designed for the inside of your car whereas others are more suited to larger vehicles such as RVs. Below we look at the features you should look for when purchasing a car heater and talk about why we really need them. We’ll look at how you can maintain your car heater if you already own one and look at all the ways in which you can keep warm inside your car during winter.
Keep reading to find out more...
Features to Look for in a Portable Car Heater
What should you look for when buying a car heater?
You’ll need to have a good think about why you need a car heater before purchasing one. The reason for this is so that you purchase the right type and not something totally unsuitable and unsafe for your vehicle. Do you need a heater to help defog your windscreen during the colder months or are you looking for something that will keep you warm? Do you own a car or an RV? The size of your vehicle will have an impact on the size of the heater that you purchase and also the type. Write down a list of reasons why you want to purchase and keep this handy when you go shopping. Heaters that are designed for backseat passengers are often very different from those designed for icy car windows.
So you’ve found the perfect car heater and you’re ready to purchase - perfect! Problem is the voltage doesn’t match the voltage from your car. Don’t make this mistake! Check to see how the car heater is powered - is it from the cigarette socket or is it powered a different way? Checking to see that it is compatible with your vehicle is one of the most basic things you can do.
Some larger, more powerful heaters are unsuitable for cars and vice versa. Make sure that you have an idea of what you want the heater for and if it’s a larger vehicle then jot down the size of the area that you would like heated. Often, larger heaters will inform you how much square footage the heat can cover.
The efficiency percentage will give you a good idea how much heat from your portable car heater will be utilized and not wasted. As you won’t be using a flame heater you will find that most heaters are pretty efficient but do have a look to make sure that the percentage is at least 95% or above.
When using a portable heater in such close quarters it’s absolutely vital that you check the safety features. Look for Oxygen Depletion Sensors (ODS) as well as an accidental tip-over safety shut offs for added safety.
Do you simply just plug the heater in and switch it on or do you need installation hardware to fix it into your vehicle? How confident are you doing this and do you have the right tools and equipment or are they included? Check, check check!
If you’re looking for a super budget option then look for heated car seats and heated blankets. These provide a great deal of comfort whilst keeping you warm and toasty. If budget is not an issue then buy the safest most robust heater you can afford.
Benefits of Portable Car Heaters
Visualize this...you’re in your car, it’s freezing cold and you can see your own breath. The windows are completely frozen and you can hardly feel your fingers. A portable car heater is such a practical thing to have handy for times like this. In a matter of minutes your windshield can be clear and the inside of your car is warm and toasty so you can go on your merry way.
If you live in a cold country or have particularly brutal winters that leave you shivering in your seat then you will be well aware of the benefits of a portable car heater. It’s just not comfortable spending time in a cold car and this is greatly exacerbated each and every time you step into your car during a particularly harsh winter. Why sit in the cold waiting for your engine to warm up when you can get your portable heater working - in many cases, almost instantly.
- Keep Family Warm in Larger Vehicles
If you own a large car or an RV then you will probably already be aware that the heat from the front of the vehicle rarely reaches the back. Rather than have freezing passengers, shivering away on the back seats, crank up the heater and give your vehicle a blast of hot air to warm everyone up.
How to Maintain Your Car Heater
As you cannot rely solely on a portable car heater you will need to make sure that your internal car heater is in healthy conditions all year round. But how can you do this? Firstly, recognize that although it’s going to be winter soon, the health of your air conditioning system is a vital aspect of this. Believe it or not, during winter your air cooling system is working in overtime trying to defog and defrost your windows! Make sure that you test your defogger regularly to check for any issues. Perhaps it’s time to recharge the system or check for a leak in the hose? If you’re not comfortable doing this then of course you can seek professional help. As for checking your heating system, make sure you do this before the temperature really drops. Does everything seem to be running ok? Ask your mechanic to perform periodic radiator coolant flushes and refills and always make sure you check the quality and quantity of antifreeze in your vehicle.
To check your heating system you should turn on your heating system. Make sure you turn it onto the highest setting and then set the fan speed to high. Check all the settings: floor, dashboard, windscreen etc If there isn’t enough heat being produced then there’s likely problems. Low coolant levels could be an issue in this case. Make sure you top up your antifreeze levels but check thoroughly for internal leaks in the system, hose cracks, damaged water pipes and leaks in the radiator cap.
On a more basic level, check for dust and blockages in the vents. Never underestimate how dirt can affect your vehicle’s functions!
Safety Tips When Using Portable Car Heaters
The safety precautions that you need to take when using a portable car heater isn’t dissimilar to those associated with a household portable heater; it’s mostly just common sense:
- Keep away from water - heaters + water = danger!
- Make sure you’re using the right type of heater for your vehicle
- Purchase a heater with a tip-over feature in case the heater falls for any reason
- Thermostat - make sure your heater has one!
- Plug heater into correct power outlet
- Shut on/off when you’re not using it
- Regularly inspect the fuses/wires etc
How to Keep Yourself Warm In Your Car During Winter
There are many different ways that you can keep warm in your car during winter.
Why not try the following:
- Portable car heater - most sensible option!
- Electric blanket - instead of a portable heater, why not try a special heated blanket which has been designed for the car? Not only will you be warm but comfortable too.
- Heated car seat - perfect for winter mornings. Adjustable heated car seats will keep your body warm throughout your journey.
- Use hand warmers - you know that point when you enter your freezing car and you can’t feel your fingers? Well, portable hand warmers are absolutely perfect for getting feeling back in your hands.
- Park in garage - this way your vehicle is less likely to frost up.
- Cover your windshield - a good way to prevent your windshield from icing up.
- Drink coffee (or tea) - never underestimate the power of a warm beverage!
Best Portable Car Heater FAQ:
Q: Are portable car heaters safe?
A: Not all. You will most definitely have to do your research before you choose which heater to buy. Make sure that the heater you purchase has a safety certificate and has been specifically designed for use in a vehicle. Check to see that it is compatible with your vehicle and also check to see if you can use them in moving vehicles. There are lots of heaters on the market and not all have been manufactured to the same standard unfortunately. Don’t risk your safety by opting for the cheapest you find. Look for reputable brands that will fit your vehicle’s spec.
Q: Does a portable car heater have a remote control?
A: Some do, some don’t. As we’ve mentioned before, not all portable car heaters are made the same. In fact, they differ quite greatly. Some portable car heaters are operated directly from the heater whereas others will benefit from a remote control.
Q: How much time does a portable car heater need to warm up the car?
A: Again, there is no one specific answer to this question. A good heater will warm up the car in a matter of minutes and some can even warm up in seconds but this depends on a number of different factors. The main factor is the power point. If the heater is being plugged into your car then it might need time to warm up.
Our Top Pick
A number of different factors were taken into consideration before we could decide which product on the list was our favorite; price and quality were our main objectives. We chose Mr Heater F274830 MH18BRV Big Buddy Grey Indoor Safe RV Heater as our favorite product as although it’s not essentially built for a car it’s absolutely perfect for RVs and larger vehicles as well as cabins too. It’s a versatile heater with an integrated fan which increases the capacity of the unit by combining radiant heat with convection style heat to give you the ultimate warmth. We liked that it had several safety features too. This might not be the cheapest product on our list but we felt it was the best quality by far.