When it comes to charging large electronics in your car, your USB port just won’t cut it for devices other than your smartphone. Luckily, with one of the best car power inverters, you’ll be able to charge larger electronics while on the go. With uses ranging from charging your laptop during a workday to powering up camping gear such as coffee makers and lanterns, a car power inverter will safely provide electricity for your larger electronics.
In this article, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about the best car power inverters. Depending on your needs and use case, you’ll want to pay close attention to the specifications and features of the different car power inverters on the market today. Along with a comprehensive, researched buying guide, we’ve outlined all the most frequently asked questions about car power inverters to help you find the best one for you.
What is The Purpose of a Car Power Inverter?
A car power inverter typically plugs into either your car’s 12v cigarette lighter or directly into your car’s battery. Once plugged in, power inverters convert the car’s DC electric current to an AC electric current which is suitable and safe for charging larger electronics that require higher wattage.
With larger electronic appliances, you either need pure sine wave or modified sine wave AC power — car power inverters utilize either one or the other. Because car power inverters get their power from your vehicle, you don’t need to purchase additional fuel or batteries. This, in turn, makes car power inverters quite eco-friendly while still pulling their power from a quality source.
The Best Car Inverter For Laptops
Depending on the wattage, you can use an inverter to charge a variety of items, including your laptop. And if you are an avid camper or you’ve recently embraced van life, you’ll likely find a power inverter is essential for charging the electronics you need, like your laptop, while on the road or in the great outdoors. For busy professionals, when unexpected (or expected) drives come up and you still need to be on the clock in the passenger seat, a car power inverter will keep your laptop charged on the road.
In general, the main thing to keep in mind when shopping for the best car inverter for laptops is to purchase an inverter that has sufficient max power output to charge your laptop. You should be able to find your laptop’s battery requirements from the manufacturer. And though you can charge a laptop using a modified sine wave inverter, if you are concerned about damaging sensitive electronics, for added insurance, look for a pure sine wave inverter with some extra features like automatic shut off and temperature/voltage alerts to ensure you can monitor your device while it is charging.
The 10 Best Car Power Inverters on The Market Today
It is vital that you get the correct wattage power inverter for your specific devices to avoid overheating and other issues. Along with that, some power inverters only have one plug (typically 150-300W inverters), while others have multiple outlets and a higher wattage. Also, keep in mind that if you still want a source for charging your smartphone, you’ll need to get an inverter that also has USB ports.
Below, we’ve detailed our recommendations for the 10 best car power inverters with a wide range of features to fit your needs. With that, be sure to purchase the car power inverter with the design, specifications, and features to fit your use case. After this article, you’ll be able to make an informed purchase in no time.
Best Overall Choice
1. Krieger 1100W Car Power Inverter
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Though the 1100W car power inverter from Krieger is the most popular version, you can also choose from 1500W, 200W, 3000W, and 4000W. With that being said, this power inverter means business. The 1100W model has two USB ports and two AC outlets. The modified sine waves allow the inverter to convert 12V DC power to 120V AC power. Along with the included wires and fuse kit for proper installation, this inverter also comes with a remote control to turn it on and off.
With the LCD screen on this inverter, you can easily monitor the battery output, output wattage, warning indicators, and notifications for temperature overload. Especially when you are charging high-powered electronics, having all of these features on a screen will give you added peace of mind. And this inverter has been vigorously safety tested to meet industry quality standards. To add to that, it has a quiet cooling fan to reduce overheating.
Krieger offers a 3-year labor and parts warranty. They have great technical support via phone, email, and live chat whenever needed. With this car power inverter, you can easily charge laptops, power tools, small appliances, and more.
Now You Can Charge Every Electronic Imaginable
In addition to the best car power inverters, check out our buying guides on the best USB C car chargers and the best wireless car chargers. A car power inverter is a fantastic addition to your car emergency kit to give you power when you need it most. Always be sure to disconnect the power inverter when it is not in use to preserve your car’s battery.
Key Features to Look For in The Best Car Power Inverters
When shopping around for the best car power inverters, it’s important to know what specific features are most important. Below, we break down the key features that differentiate the car power inverters from one another.
The larger the wattage, the larger the electronic devices that can be charged by the inverter. Generally, 100-200W inverters can charge one device at a time. And they have a lower peak capacity so you must be careful that you do not try to charge a device that requires a higher wattage. 200-900W inverters typically have multiple outlets and are capable of higher power output and simultaneous charging. 1000W+ inverters are the most capable power inverters, able to charge large devices such as power tools, small appliances, and more. These inverters are typically larger and will have an LCD screen to monitor the output and wattage.
Number of Outlets
As mentioned before, the number of outlets generally depends on the overall wattage and size of the inverter. You can purchase a car power inverter with a single outlet, multiple outlets, USB ports, or a combination of both. The more outlets and ports, the more expensive the inverter will be.
If you’re looking for an inverter that will be lightweight and smaller, you should opt for smaller wattage and fewer outlets. Along with that, the smaller it is, the easier it is to transport between cars. With a smaller car power inverter, you can still reap the benefits of charging devices such as cameras, laptops, camping equipment, small appliances, and more. If you have a large van or RV, you’ll likely opt to purchase a larger, heavier power inverter with a higher wattage. Again, purchasing the best car power inverters comes back to how you plan to use them.
When it comes to purchasing a product whose primary job is converting large amounts of electrical power, it should go without saying that safety is important. Some power inverters have additional safety features such as automatic shut-off and alerts if the device starts to overheat. Additionally, look for inverters with the ETL stamp of approval, an assurance that the device meets industry safety guidelines.
Without getting too technical, the basic premise of how the best car power inverters work is they convert DC power to AC power which is output in sine waves. You can purchase an inverter that either produces modified sine waves or pure sine waves. Most commonly, power inverters use modified sine waves. Modified sine waves are typically fine for most electronics and small appliances.
However, pure sine waves are more stable and will provide a more efficient and constant source of power. Pure sine wave inverters may be more expensive and are typically made for devices or appliances that require high wattage and uninterrupted power to operate optimally. Check the device you plan to charge to see what type of sine wave is recommended.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I install a power inverter into my car?
To be certain you are installing your particular car power inverter correctly, check with your product’s user manual. For smaller power inverters, you can generally plug right into a 12V accessory outlet. For larger power inverters, you’ll likely need to properly wire the inverter directly to your car’s battery.
Are power inverters safe for cars?
As long as they are used correctly, power inverters are safe for cars. There are numerous steps you can take, as well, to ensure optimal safety. Avoid using your power inverter in high temperatures and do not place it in direct sunlight.
Along with that, use an inverter with the right input voltage and wattage. The voltage should match your car battery’s voltage. In regards to wattage, the general rule-of-thumb is to use an inverter with a higher initial power required by the electronics you plant to charge.
Do not use your inverter when the car’s engine is off because this could kill the car’s battery. Simply unplug or turn off the inverter when it is not in use.
Finally, this almost goes without saying, be extra careful that you don’t get the inverter wet. Moisture and electricity don’t play well. If the inverter gets wet, you run the risk of a real emergency.
Does an inverter use power when nothing is plugged in?
If an inverter is still on, it will still pull power from the battery even when nothing is plugged in to charge. Of course, it will use less power than if devices are actively charging, but this is one reason you will want to ensure it is either unplugged or turned off when not in use.
Can I use a power inverter with my engine off?
Yes, but only for a short period of time. And we don’t recommend it in general. We advise always turning your car engine on before using your car power inverter whenever possible. Just like leaving your car lights on overnight will drain your car’s battery, a power inverter that is left on for an extended period of time can also drain a battery.
What are sine waves?
An inverter converts DC (Direct Current) power to AC (Alternating Current) power in order to produce the power needed to charge larger electronics. When the DC power is converted, it changes to sine waves to create AC power. Depending on the size and power requirements of your electronics, you will either require a modified sine wave (for the smaller-scale electronics) or a pure sine wave (for the larger-scale devices).
Will a modified sine wave inverter damage my laptop?
In general, most laptops can be charged without damage by modified sine wave inverters. However, there are some laptops that, per the manufacturer, require a pure sine wave inverter. Always check with your laptop manufacturer to see the specific charging requirements for your particular device before purchasing an inverter.
Why is my power inverter beeping?
If your power inverter is beeping, it may be alerting you that it is overheating or has another issue. To troubleshoot, refer to your car power inverter’s user manual.